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EduClips: School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts, Including a Reversal on Teacher Evaluations in New York

By Andrew Brownstein | January 24, 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 — State Legislature Reverses Measure Linking Teacher Evaluations to Student Performance: State teachers will no longer be evaluated according to student performance on certain state tests after the legislature easily passed a bill reversing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 evaluation plan. Backlash over the earlier bill led many families to opt out of state tests, but even lawmakers who supported the union-led rollback raised concerns about potential loopholes that could subject students to more high-stakes testing. The legislation passed this week allows local districts and their teachers unions to decide what kind of assessments should be used to evaluate teachers and requires State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to decide on a “menu” of alternative assessments for local districts.The bill is unlikely to have a drastic effect on New York City schools, which already choose from a menu of local measures to evaluate teachers. (Read at Chalkbeat)

Fairfax County — Second Lady Karen Pence Teaching at School That Bans Gay Students, Teachers: Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, has taken a job at a private Christian school in Fairfax County that bans LGBT employees, gay students, and the children of gay parents. She is teaching art at Immanuel Christian School, where, under an employment agreement posted on the school’s website, applicants must agree that God intends marriage to be between a man and a woman. It also states that unmarried couples should not live together or have any sexual activity outside of marriage and that employees should not change their gender identity. (Read at USA Today)

Gwinnett County — School Board Members Vote to Name Two Schools After Themselves: At their final meeting, two former Gwinnett County school board members voted to name new schools — after themselves. The board voted unanimously to name two new high schools after outgoing members Dr. Robert McClure and Dan Seckinger. Many wondered why the decision was made without community input and asked if other names had been considered. A school district spokeswoman said the board adhered to state law by voting on the names in open session. “Both Dr. McClure and Mr. Seckinger are long-time public servants and the Board felt it appropriate to recognize their 24 years of service to the school district and the Gwinnett community,” she said in a statement. But others questioned whether Seckinger, who was arrested in 2010 for failure to pay child support, was the best candidate. (Read at The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Orange County — Orlando-Area Schools Feeling Sting of Statewide Teacher Shortage: The statewide teachers union is sounding the alarm about a looming educator shortage, estimating that schools need to hire 2,217 teachers to fill open jobs in classrooms across the state, including 35 in Orlando and elsewhere in Orange County. State schools had 700 more teacher vacancies this month than at the same time last year, with openings in nearly all subjects, according to the Florida Education Association. Florida schools have been wrestling with a shortage for several years, particularly in elementary schools. Florida’s universities used to graduate all the new elementary school instructors they needed, but enrollment in education colleges has dropped. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

Chicago — Chicago Schools Log 900 Sexual Misconduct Cases in Four Months: In just over four months, Chicago students have reported more than 900 cases of alleged sexual misconduct, the vast majority involving complaints against other students. The reporting is a response to a massive campaign to improve school district handling of complaints after the Chicago Tribune exposed widespread flaws in how the district handled sexual abuse allegations dating back to 2000. The district has removed 33 adults from schools this school year as a result of new investigations, but the numbers shared with the Chicago school board quantify another problem: student-on-student complaints, ranging from inappropriate touching, sexting, and harassment to more violent physical encounters. Of the 932 cases reported since the start of school, 82 percent involved student complaints against other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

Los Angeles — District, Union Agree to End 6-Day Strike: L.A. Unified and its teachers reached a contract deal to end the six-day teacher strike, heralding “a new chapter” in public education that district officials say will protect the district’s fiscal solvency. The agreement focuses largely on lowering class sizes and adding support staff. UTLA members would get a 6 percent raise, and the district would invest $403 million in class size reductions and new staffing over the next three years. The county has to sign off on the proposed contract, and then the L.A. Unified school board has to. In a summary of the contract agreement, UTLA also announced that L.A. Unified’s school board will vote at its next meeting on a resolution calling on the state legislature to cap the growth of charter schools in the district while the state studies policy changes. However, the actual contract document does not address any such resolution. (Read at The74Million.org)

Puerto Rico — Officials Put Hurricane Maria Repair Price Tag at $11 Billion: The total cost of repairing the island’s 856 public schools after Hurricane Maria, and bringing them up to school building standards that until recently didn’t exist, is $11 billion — more than one-seventh of the U.S. Department of Education’s total operating budget for this fiscal year. That’s according to the island’s education secretary, Julia Keleher. She estimates that the work — including repairs, painting, and mold remediation — will take between three and seven years to complete. The issue of funding for Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery found its way back into the headlines recently when President Donald Trump said he could decide to use U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding intended for (among other things) projects to aid storm recovery in Puerto Rico to build hundreds of miles of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border instead. (Read at Education Week)

Broward County — Post-Parkland, Fort Lauderdale–Area Schools Invest in ‘Safe Spaces’ and Controlled Entry Points: Broward County, site of last February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has installed 60 pilot “safe spaces” — areas where students can take cover from an active shooter — inside the school where the mass shooting occurred. Additionally, 82 percent of all county schools have revamped their campuses to have only one point of entry so that access can be better controlled. Superintendent Robert Runcie rolled out the plan in response to the release of a brutally critical report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. (Read at the Miami Herald)

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

ACCOUNTABILITY John White: ‘Exaggerated Accountability Response in Combination With Exaggerated Chaos Will Produce Distrust’ — The ‘A’ Word (Read at The74Million.org)

RELIGION — Bible classes in public schools? Why Christian lawmakers are pushing a wave of new bills (Read at USA Today)

TEACHERS How to get teachers to believe in a new school program? Ask them to help design it. (Read at Chalkbeat)

EQUITY Hillary Clinton Hates It. Betsy DeVos Hates It. But Is Education by Zip Code Unfixable? (Read at Politics K-12)

STRIKES — More strikes ahead? Teachers say they love their jobs but can’t pay their bills, poll shows (Read at USA Today)

Quotes of the Week

“We don’t do knee-jerk reactions to things. We don’t want to just have 100 percent of our focus on what the last shooter did. These things need to be thought out.” —Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, on attempts to secure schools after last February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. (Read at the Miami Herald)

“He is a third-grade student that’s never attended a full day of school. I just think that’s completely inappropriate.” —Jennifer Schell, on her son Aidin, who has autism. Experiences like Aidin’s form the centerpiece of a federal class-action lawsuit against the state of Oregon and its education department, alleging public schools in the state unnecessarily shorten school days for children with disabilities who experience behavioral challenges. (Read at the74Million.org)

“One year, I counted up all the hours I spent working. If you total up all those hours, guess what I made? $2.68 an hour.” —Kevin Rooker, 60, a history teacher in Saginaw, Michigan. (Read at USA Today)

“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 the 900 sexual misconduct cases logged in the district over the past four months, mostly students reporting on other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

“This issue has dragged on for so long, it’s just so unacceptable and inhumane to have people live their lives by months at a time or by decision to decision. They definitely deserve something more permanent.” —Viridiana Carrizales, co-founder and CEO of ImmSchools, a nonprofit that partners with school districts to ensure they adequately support undocumented students and parents, on the legal limbo for the students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Read at The74Million.org)

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