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EduClips: School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts, Including a ‘Landmark’ School Bullying Ruling in Philadelphia

By Andrew Brownstein | November 1, 2018

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

Philadelphia — Bullying Ruling Hailed as “Landmark” Decision for Students: It started with name-calling in elementary school: “A-man-duh.” Over nearly a decade at four schools, Amanda Wible was punched, shoved, and spat on, according to court records.She eventually fled the district, but in May, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge ordered the Philadelphia School District to pay Wible $500,000 in damages. It marks the first time a court has held a Pennsylvania school district liable for student-on-student harassment under the state’s Human Relations Act. Experts are calling it a “landmark” decision that could have broad implications for bullied children and the schools they attend. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Chicago — Over Half of District Schools Rated “Commendable” on New State Report Cards: First, the good news: About 7 in 10 Illinois schools are rated “commendable” on the state’s overhauled school report cards. But there is reason for caution. The labeling system relies heavily on a new feature: measuring students’ year-over-year improvement on standardized tests instead of simply relying on passing rates. The measure gave credit for growth to schools that in the past have been considered low-performing. In Chicago, this translated to more than half of district schools being rated “commendable.” Of the 619 Chicago schools that received ratings, 95 were labeled lowest-performing, meaning their academic standing was in the bottom 5 percent statewide. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

Los Angeles — Union Rejects Latest Contract Offer: The Los Angeles teachers union rejected an updated contract offer from the district this week, continuing a stalemate that could lead to the district’s first teacher strike in 30 years. The district’s proposal included a 3 percent pay raise retroactive to 2017-18, plus a guaranteed 3 percent raise for 2018-19. The district dropped a stipulation that made a salary boost contingent on the district’s financial projections for the next two years. “Focusing on salary while doing nothing to improve schools and attract parents and students will lead to the loss of jobs, school closures, and ultimately the ruin of the district,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl. (Read at NBC Los Angeles)

Miami-Dade — Miami Schools Chief Carvalho, Who Flirted With Top NYC Job, Named Superintendent of the Year: Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, known for his very public flirtation with and ultimate rejection this year of a position leading New York City’s schools, was named the 2018 Urban Superintendent of the Year. The award was bestowed by the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of large urban districts, and comes with a $10,000 college scholarship for a student in the district. Carvalho has helmed the Miami schools for more than a decade. This summer, the district won its first A rating for quality from the state Education Department and, for the second year in a row, had no F-rated schools. (Read at Education Week)

Puerto Rico — Top U.S. Education Department Official Praises Island’s School Choice Plan: The U.S. Department of Education’s top K-12 official praised Puerto Rico for passing a new law permitting charter schools and vouchers in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In remarks at a Heritage Foundation event, Frank Brogan, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, predicted the new laws would help improve the island’s long-struggling school system. “It will, in its own way, be a laboratory of observation for people all over the country who are going to look to Puerto Rico as a beacon of example of what change can bring,” Brogan said, “especially when you’re in a position to put down at least temporarily the forces who would keep it exactly the way it has always been.” (Read at Politics K-12)

New York City — School Suspensions Go Up for First Time Since De Blasio Became Mayor: Suspensions in the New York City public schools increased 4 percent last year, the first jump since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014. The mayor championed making suspensions more difficult to get, requiring central sign-off for certain infractions. Last year, more serious superintendent suspensions spiked by nearly 6 percent, while principal suspensions, handed out for less serious offenses, jumped by 3.4 percent. (Read at Chalkbeat)

Houston — Study: District Decentralization Plan Failed to Improve Student Achievement: An experiment to decentralize the Houston Independent School District had only “minimal impact” on student achievement, researchers at Rice University found. In the 1990s, the district attempted to swap its top-heavy bureaucracy for one in which principals were put in charge of managing school budgets, hiring, and other key decisions. Beyond academics, the study found, the experiment has worked as intended. Principals control just under half of their school budgets and reported that they’re fairly satisfied. (Read at Houston Public Media)

Clark County — Equity-Minded Black Student Unions on the Rise in Las Vegas Schools: The number of black student unions in Las Vegas-area schools has quadrupled in three years — jumping from eight to 32 groups at various high schools. Unlike student councils, black student unions are more akin to advocacy organizations and, at a time of yawning achievement gaps between black and white students, focus on equity. Just 12 percent of black sixth-graders were proficient in math last year, according to standardized test data, compared with 48 percent of white sixth-graders and 22 percent of Hispanic sixth-graders. (Read at The Nevada Independent)

Hawaii — Lawmakers Decry Schools’ Response to Bullying: Seven years after the Hawaii Legislature passed an anti-bullying statute, state Department of Education policies to protect children are still lackluster, some state lawmakers say. “If the DOE policies were enough,” said Rep. John Mizuno, “we wouldn’t have all these lawsuits hanging over the DOE.” The widest-reaching suit was brought two months ago by several parents who allege school officials didn’t take sufficient measures to respond to or protect their children when alerted to alleged misbehavior from other kids — from racial slurs to physical violence. (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT — Private groups have long tried to help turn around struggling schools. But it’s not clear if they’re doing any good (Read at Chalkbeat)

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS — Matching first-generation, low-income students to the right college is complicated: Here’s what happened to me (Read at The74Million.org)

TEACHER TRAINING — A rare look inside classrooms finds some poorly trained teachers wasting time (Read at The Washington Post)

MILLENNIALS — Millennials Support Teachers Unions. Politicians Should Take Heed (Read at Education Week)

VIRTUAL REALITY — Can virtual reality revolutionize education? (Read at CNN)

TEACHER EVALUATION — More work, worse relationships, and better feedback: How teacher evaluation has changed the job of the principal (Read at Chalkbeat)

BULLYING — Research evidence on bullying prevention at odds with what schools are doing (Read at The Hechinger Report)

Quotes of the Week

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

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

“We can argue all we want, but the only way we win the argument [for more gun control] is when we go and we vote on these decisions.” —Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Read at The74Million.org)

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

“I squarely stand in the third way. I absolutely believe in accountability and high expectations, and … I also believe that institutionalized racism and generational poverty deeply influence kids’ lives and schools, and so we have to tackle those things as well.” —Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras. (Read at The74Million.org)

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