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EduClips: School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts, Including Teacher Pay, Testing & an Unexpected Apology

By Andrew Brownstein | October 18, 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.

Houston — School Board Apologizes for 10 Months of Dysfunction: The Houston school board has apologized for a dysfunctional past 10 months, particularly a contentious and racially charged meeting last week that saw an abrupt vote to replace the district’s interim superintendent. In addition to the apology, issued on behalf of all nine members, the board walked back its selection and said it would reinstate Grenita Lathan as interim superintendent. Last week’s vote blindsided four trustees, including all three of the board’s black members, as the meeting erupted in accusations of disrespect and racism, and audience members shouted and cursed at trustees who supported the surprise move. The district has been without a permanent chief since Richard Carranza abruptly left the district in March to become chancellor of New York City Public Schools. (Read at The Houston Chronicle)

New York City — Homeless Students Reach Record Numbers: In 2017, about 1 out of every 10 students in New York City was homeless, according to state data released by Advocates for Children of New York, a group that provides legal and advocacy services for needy students. That’s more children than at any other time since the city began keeping records. The number of city students in temporary housing topped 100,000 for the third consecutive year in 2017, according to the state data. (Read at The New York Times)

Chicago — Pro-Charter Group Invests Millions in Local Races: A pro-charter Illinois political action committee is planning to infuse millions of dollars into contested Chicago races where education is an issue. “The stakes couldn’t be higher for urban public education,” Andrew Broy, president of INCS Action, a PAC that advocates for charter schools in Illinois, told Chalkbeat. “We expect to spend a seven-figure sum in each of these races.” Chicago Public Schools has 121 charter schools, down 7 percent from two years ago, when the teachers union negotiated a cap on charter enrollment. (Read at Chalkbeat)

Los Angeles — At Center of Potential Teacher Strike, Two Leaders Who ‘Inhabit Different Worlds’: With mediation ended, and Los Angeles teetering ever closer to a teacher strike, the spotlight is on two men at the heart of the matter: Superintendent Austin Beutner and Alex Caputo-Pearl, who leads the teachers union. As the Los Angeles Times writes, the two “sound almost as if they inhabit different worlds. They don’t even agree on a set of basic facts, which makes negotiation difficult.” To some degree because of the gulf between their competing realities, a strike seems increasingly likely, observers say. (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

Philadelphia — Lawmakers Walk Back Reliance on Controversial, Expensive Graduation Exam: A controversial graduation exam taken by Pennsylvania students, including those in Philadelphia, is about to get much less important, after state lawmakers this week passed legislation to push back the Keystone Exams requirements until 2022. Seniors will be allowed to demonstrate mastery in other ways, such as gaining acceptance to a four-year college, securing full-time employment post-graduation, completing an internship, or earning a to-be-determined score on the SAT. The state put a high priority on the exam after it was first proposed in 2009, spending $70 million on the test’s development. “I thought it was outrageous that we would stamp ‘failure’ on the back of … students and teachers, when it was we in the legislature who created the problem in the first place by not properly funding schools in Philadelphia and other poorer districts in the commonwealth,” said State Sen. Andy Dinniman, a sponsor of the bill and a vocal opponent of the exam. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Miami-Dade — Board Agrees to Spend Most of Property Tax Funds on Miami Teacher Salaries: After spending nearly four hours in a closed-door session, the Miami-Dade School Board agreed that the bulk of the $232 million it hopes to raise from a Nov. 6 property tax referendum will go toward teacher salaries. Board members agreed that 88 percent will fund teacher salaries and 12 percent will be set aside for hiring more police officers so that every school is covered. The decision allows the district and the teachers union to enter into bargaining about how the teachers’ portion will be spent. (Read at the Miami Herald)

Clark County — Las Vegas Schools Faced With Open Records Suit in Teacher Whistleblower Case: A new public-records lawsuit has been lodged against the Clark County School District over its refusal to release emails related to a teacher’s allegation that she was improperly fired for reporting possible testing irregularities. The lawsuit was filed by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian think tank, and is part of an investigation by the institute into allegations involving abuse of special education students and retaliation against whistleblowers. The institute is trying to determine if district officials were pressured to fire a teacher for reporting testing discrepancies for a special education student. (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Broward County — Board Blasts Fort Lauderdale School Administrators for Raises: Broward County School Board members criticized the district for giving raises and bonuses to administrators without the board’s approval or knowledge, and they directed Superintendent Robert Runcie to find out how many employees have gotten such increases in the past two years. A board member raised the issue in response to a public-records request made by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Earlier this month, the newspaper found 11 administrators who received raises of between 7 and 21 percent, well above the 2.2 percent increases for most of the district’s 27,000 employees. (Read at the Sun Sentinel)

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

SCHOOL REFORM — Be Wary of Those Reformers Peddling ‘Model’ School Districts (Read at Education Week)

TRANSPARENCY — Keeling: 4 Ways That Students and Families Are Getting Lost in an Avalanche of Confusing Information From Their Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

SCHOLARSHIPS — Bad SAT scores? Low GPA? The College Board has just the scholarship for you (Read at USA Today)

EQUITY What our local education reporters learned when we collaborated with ProPublica to look at equity data (Read at Chalkbeat)

TEACHERS America’s teachers: One day, not enough respect (Read at USA Today)

PRE-K — Early childhood education yields big benefits — just not the ones you think (Read at Vox)

Quotes of the Week

“Our actions have not modeled the behavior that we hope to instill in our children that we serve.” —Trustee Diana Dávila, who issued a formal apology on behalf of Houston’s nine-member school board for its contentious and dysfunctional behavior over the past 10 months. (Read at The Houston Chronicle)

“Are they really measuring giftedness and talentedness, or are they really measuring, when you’re measuring kids at 4 years old, the privilege of the parent?” —New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, on programs for gifted and talented students. (Read at The74Million.org)

“We don’t need police officers patrolling the hallways of schools — that’s for school administrators to do. Police have a much bigger role in the community, and it’s not arresting 14-year-olds for disorderly conduct in a hallway.” —James Harris, superintendent of Pennsylvania’s Woodland Hills School District. Five youth who described a culture of abuse at the suburban Pittsburgh school system reached a half-million-dollar settlement with the district, officials, and police they say perpetrated violence against them. (Read at The74Million.org)

“You think you’ve seen everything and then something happens where you’re like, ‘Well, I never saw that coming,’ then it’s back to the drawing board to figure out what we can do.” —Meghan Dunn, principal of P.S. 446 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where more than a quarter of the students are homeless. (Read at The New York Times)

“Everybody knows where the end of this litigation road is, which is the Supreme Court. Janus is sadly not the end of the road. This road just got a lot harder.” —Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, on future anti-union lawsuits. (Read at Education Week)

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