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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Federal spending on children will drop about a quarter within a decade, as appropriations for the elderly and rising interest payments on a soaring national debt will squeeze spending on America’s youth, the Urban Institute projected in a report issued Tuesday. This will happen even though the proportion of children living in poverty is double that of senior citizens: 18 percent to 9 percent. In 2017, $375 billion — 9 percent of the $3.9 trillion in federal expenditures — was targeted for children under 19. But by 2028, it’s expected to fall to 6.9 percent, the Urban Institute said in its annual report Kids’ Share 2018. Contributing to the drop are congressional budgeting rules that build in increases for entitlements like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, while annual discretionary spending is capped by rules Congress adopted a decade ago. Discretionary programs include funding for low-income public schools, early education programs like Head Start, child welfare and aid for students with disabilities. “The budget illustrates shortcomings in the ability to govern. Underinvestment and declining investment in children shows how much we pay attention to immediate consumption, instead of long-term investment,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonprofit organization in Washington, during a panel discussion Wednesday organized by the Urban Institute. “And it is easy to keep it on automatic pilot.”
Bruce D. Baker, Learning Policy Institute
This brief is based upon a report that reviewed research on the role of money in determining school quality. The research documents that resource investments matter for student outcomes, especially when they are directed to under-resourced districts and students from low-income families. The research also shows that spending resources in ways that reduce class sizes for young children and those with greater academic needs and that improve teacher quality have strong payoffs for outcomes. Finally, some research suggests that increasing and equalizing school funding may be most effective when it is part of a comprehensive set of efforts to improve teaching and learning. While money alone is not the answer to all educational ills, more equitable and adequate allocation of financial inputs to schooling provides a necessary underlying condition for improving the equity and adequacy of outcomes.
Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report
When we think of what’s at stake in education with the impending conservative swing of the Supreme Court, I bet most would say, “Affirmative action.” But there’s another case that may soon become top of mind for us: the 1982 case of Plyler v. Doe. The ruling prohibited school officials from considering immigration status when enrolling children, and while various states and localities have attempted to circumvent the decision, in recent years it has been considered uncontroversial and settled into law. But what if a reconfigured bench with Neil Gorsuch and, potentially, President Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh were to hear the case again today? That question may not be purely hypothetical. The 1982 decision was narrowly decided, five in favor, four against. In his ruling opinion, Justice William Brennan wrote that “under current laws and practices, ‘the illegal alien of today may well be the legal alien of tomorrow,’” and that without an education, undocumented children, “[a]lready disadvantaged as a result of poverty, lack of English-speaking ability, and undeniable racial prejudices, . . . will become permanently locked into the lowest socio-economic class.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Autumn A. Arnett, Education Drive
A recent paper from researchers at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that immigrant students are terrified they could be picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials — or their family members, friends or others they know — and this fear impacts their ability to learn and the ability of their teachers to teach. And it isn’t just immigrant, first- or second-generation students who are affected. “Any time there is a raid or a threat of deportation or people just worried about the issue, it doesn’t just affect that family, it affects the teacher and the classmates and the administrators,” said Julie Sugarman, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “Any time there’s something that happens in a community, it affects everybody.” There’s an increased rate of absenteeism, which affects not only the students who are absent, but the entire classroom. Students and staff are anxious and emotional and behavioral issues increase as students grapple with how to deal with these things. And while Sugarman said she believes districts and institutions “are really doing their best,” whether finding additional resources, offering additional services or simply increasing diversity training to make sure staff are aware of the issues, for many this is still largely unchartered territory.
Kimberly Yam, HuffPost
San Francisco will become the first city in California to allow noncitizens to vote for certain positions in an upcoming election. On Monday, the city’s Department of Elections began issuing registration forms for the vote on Nov. 6 that allow noncitizen and undocumented parents, guardians and caregivers of students in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in school board elections. About one-third of the students in the district come from immigrant households, so the measure will give many parents a rightful voice, Hong Mei Pang, director of advocacy at the San Francisco-based nonprofit Chinese for Affirmative Action, told HuffPost in an email. Pang’s organization is involved in the Immigrant Parent Voting Collaborative, which partnered with the city elections department to spread awareness on the measure. “These newly enfranchised voters would now have a direct voice to influence decisions that impact their children’s needs that are often underrepresented, ranging from issues like language access to health and wellness,” Pang told HuffPost.
Sarah Larimer, The Washington Post
Jodie Patterson is a graduate of a historically black college. She is also the mother of a young transgender boy. And as a parent, she said, she knows what she wants to see from schools. “I need to see conversations,” she said. “I need to be a part of those conversations.” Patterson spoke Wednesday at an event hosted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. She and another parent shared the stories of their families — and their perspectives and concerns as parents — with leaders of historically black colleges and universities who gathered for a summit at the LGBT rights advocacy organization. “I need proof that we are in it, that we are committed to the conversation, that it is robust, that it is diverse,” said Patterson, who is a member of a Human Rights Campaign parent council. A dozen schools were represented at the gathering in the District, including Howard University, Morgan State University and Spelman College, the Human Rights Campaign said. Participants discussed HIV prevention, corporate diversity and supporting families. Learning about those issues reflects the schools’ commitment to social justice, said Parris Carter, associate vice president for student affairs at Howard University in Northwest Washington. “So if we’re looking at the way that our campuses should embrace all students, in terms of social justice, I think that’s kind of the foundation of why this is important,” he said.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Cory Turner, NPR
Rates of anxiety and depression among teens in the U.S. have been rising for years. According to one study, nearly one in three adolescents (ages 13-18) now meets the criteria for an anxiety disorder, and in the latest results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 32 percent of teens reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. And there’s more bad news, grown-ups: The authors of two new parenting books believe you’re part of the problem. “Kids are play-deprived nowadays,” says Katherine Reynolds Lewis, a journalist, parent, parent-educator and the author of one of those two new books, The Good News About Bad Behavior. And by “play” she means play without screens or adults keeping watch. “Two or three decades ago, children were roaming neighborhoods in mixed-age groups, playing pretty unsupervised,” Lewis says. And this kind of parent-free play helped them develop important skills they’d use for the rest of their lives. “They were able to resolve disputes. They planned their time. They managed their games. They had a lot of autonomy, which also feeds self-esteem and mental health.”
David Washburn, EdSource
A third of parents surveyed nationally say they fear for their children’s safety at school, but a significant majority — 63 percent — do not support the idea of arming teachers as a way to make schools safer, according to a new poll on attitudes toward public schools. The poll, released Tuesday by Arlington, Va-based Phi Delta Kappa International, also found that while a high percentage of parents supported armed officers in schools, the public overwhelmingly prefers spending money on mental health services in schools over armed officers — 76 percent to 23 percent. However, where people live — along with their incomes and their political party affiliation — heavily influence their opinions on these and other issues relating to school safety, the poll found. Fears for a child’s safety at school are twice as high among parents with household incomes of less than $50,000 compared with those earning $100,000 or more — 48 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Fear also tops 40 percent among urban parents, nonwhites and those without college degrees, the poll found. But only 18 percent of parents in rural areas share the same level of fear as those living in cities.
A survey of school districts around the country finds that less than half test their water for lead, and among those that do more than a third detected elevated levels of the toxin, according to a federal report released Tuesday. Lead can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in children. The report, released by the Government Accountability Office, is based on a survey of 549 school districts across the United States. It estimates that 41 percent of school districts, serving 12 million students, did not test for lead in the water in 2016 and 2017. Of the 43 percent that did test for lead, about 37 percent reported elevated levels. Sixteen percent of schools said they did not know whether they test for lead, the report says. A 2005 memorandum signed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidance to schools, including a testing protocol and suggestions for disseminating results, educating the school community about the risks and health effects of exposure and what actions should be taken to correct the problem. But there are still major information gaps, the report says, and no federal law that requires schools to test for lead.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Work less, study more: California will give grants to community college students attending full-time
Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
In an effort to get students to earn degrees in two or four years, California will give up to $4,000 in grants to community college students who take a full 15-hour course load starting this fall. Rewarding community college students with extra money for going full-time is another way the state is seeking to increase the number of students who complete college in four years. Students who take a full course load of 15 units a semester are on track to finish their associate degree or transfer within two years to earn a bachelor’s degree. But most community college students are enrolled part-time: Just 21 percent took between 12 and 14 units last fall; only 8 percent enrolled in 15 or more credits. Because many community college students juggle course work with jobs, backers of the grants see it as a way of getting students to work less and concentrate on their studies. In a state where minimum wage is around $11 an hour, a grant of $4,000 could be the equivalent of nearly 400 hours of work a year. The grant, under the newly named Community Colleges Student Success Completion Grant, is an expansion of two previous programs that gave students up to $2,500.
APM Reports, The Hechinger Report
Jocelyn Ramirez enrolled in a two-year program to earn her associate’s degree from Wilbur Wright College in Chicago back in 2014. She was working more than full-time at a podiatry clinic and raising her daughter. Money was tight, so she applied for and received a grant from the state of Illinois for low-income students called the Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP grant. It covered about half of her tuition payments. Then, one year into her studies, the money went away and Ramirez had to change her plans. “Any financial help plays a big role,” she says. “Because that determines how many hours you have to work and make ends meet and know everything stays aligned.” Nearly every state has some form of need-based tuition assistance for low-income students. Across the country, millions of students apply to states each year for aid. But Meredith Kolodner, higher education reporter at The Hechinger Report, found that hundreds of thousands of students who qualify for aid never receive it because the state’s simply run out of money. Last year alone, more than 900,000 didn’t receive the aid they applied for. And in 10 states, more than half of the eligible students who apply don’t get any money.
Ben Myers, The Chronicle of Higher Education
For most college students, place matters. And closer is often better. In 2016, almost 40 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen reported that their colleges were less than 50 miles from their homes, a proportion that has held since the 1980s. Studying close to home, family, and community can be even more vital for the roughly one in four undergraduate students who are considered nontraditional — those who are older, have child-care duties, work full time, or attend college part time. But what happens when there’s no college nearby? That’s still the case in substantial pockets of the country. Areas where it’s difficult for placebound students to get to a college — commonly known as education deserts — have drawn more attention in recent years, but there’s still much to be learned about their breadth and their impact. We wanted to learn more. If colleges and policy makers fail to consider the impact of education deserts, they will fail to engage a large pool of potential students. That may reinforce the inequality that higher education hopes to solve.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Sonja Santelises, The Washington Post
Conversations about inadequate school resources usually bring to mind images of tattered, outdated textbooks that include maps of the Soviet Union. Such long-running inattention to classroom materials in this country is inexcusable, but simply buying new textbooks won’t fix the problem. If we want to ensure that all students — no matter their Zip code, family income or background — get what they need to be successful, we must take a far more thoughtful approach to curriculum: the actual content kids learn in school. Uneven, scattered curriculum isn’t just boring or confusing; it can widen the gaps between students from affluent backgrounds and their peers from low-income families. Those who are well-off can fill in the blanks left by disjointed curriculum through parental guidance, outside tutoring and the rich experiences that are the hallmarks of privilege. But students whose parents work three jobs to make ends meet or who constantly face the threat of deportation don’t often go on weekend trips to museums, take family vacations to living history attractions or attend academic camps in the summer. The research on the inequities in school curriculum is staggering. An analysis conducted by the Education Trust recently found that a significant percentage of educators are not delivering rigorous content in math — and the problem is especially acute in schools with concentrations of poverty, where families aren’t able to supplement the lack of rigor.
Christina Veiga, Chalkbeat
As debate has erupted in recent weeks over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to overhaul admissions to the city’s most prestigious specialized high schools, another set of New York City schools are coming under new scrutiny: those that offer gifted and talented programs. Much like specialized high schools, most gifted and talented programs use only a single test to determine admissions, and black and Hispanic students are starkly underrepresented. The crucial difference is that New York City’s gifted programs begin sorting students when they are as young as 4 years old, paving a reliable path to the city’s most coveted middle and high schools. Many parents and alumni have criticized the mayor’s plan, saying integration efforts should start much earlier with gifted and talented programs. Some are even calling for a new approach to determining who is gifted. “This is common sense: How can we compare children who have every advantage to those who are born into the world with severe disadvantages?” a group of black specialized high school alumni recently wrote in an open letter to the chancellor. “The goal should be to make sure that children in every city neighborhood have the same access to the type of education that will prepare them for admission to specialized high schools.”
Christina Vercelletto, Education Drive
Inequities in school funding throughout the U.S. impact everything from class size to course selection to teacher expertise. Those inequities create clear disparities in educational outcomes for students. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that when public schools are forced to spend more on low-income students, those students do better in school. While there has been considerable improvement over the years — the poorest schools are not seeing 30 to 40 pupils per class and zero extracurricular opportunities the way they were in the 1970s and ’80s — a new federal analysis revealed that states have taken a step backwards. It brought to light that 25% of the poorest schools in the country received 3.4% less in per pupil spending than 25% of the wealthiest school districts. In Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Nevada and Virginia, high-need districts received less funding than wealthier ones.
Public Schools and Private $
Associated Press, CBS News
Dollar for dollar, the beleaguered movement to bring charter schools to Washington state has had no bigger champion than billionaire Bill Gates. The Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder gave millions of dollars to see a charter school law approved despite multiple failed ballot referendums. And his private foundation not only helped create the Washington State Charter Schools Association but has at times contributed what amounts to an entire year’s worth of revenues for the 5-year-old charter advocacy group. All told, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given about $25 million to the charter group that is credited with keeping the charter schools open after the state struck down the law and then lobbying legislators to revive the privately run, publicly funded schools. It’s an extreme example of how billionaires are influencing state education policy by giving money to state-level charter support organizations to sustain, defend and expand the charter schools movement across the country.
Schott Foundation and Network for Public Education
This report examines our nation’s commitment to democracy by assessing the privatization programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia with the goal of not only highlighting the benefits of a public school education, but comparing the accountability, transparency and civil rights protections offered students in the public school setting versus the private school setting. States are rated on the extent to which they have instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization, as well as the guardrails they have (or have not) put into place to protect the rights of students, communities and taxpayers. This is not an assessment of the overall quality of the public education system in the state — rather it is an analysis of the laws that support privatized alternatives to public schools. This report card, therefore, provides a vital accounting of each state’s democratic commitment to their public school students and their public schools, by holding it accountable for abandoning civil rights protections, transparency, accountability and adequate funding in a quest for “private” alternatives. It is designed to give citizens insight into the extent of privatization and its intended and unintended consequences for our students and our nation.
Theresa Harrington, EdSource
A California State Board of Education decision to approve a charter school over a school district’s objections laid bare the limits of the state’s charter laws. Oakland Unified had refused to approve a charter for the proposed new Latitude 37.8 high school in part because the district faces a fiscal crisis and can’t afford to lose more students, along with the state aid that follows them when they go to charter schools. Already, 43 charter schools operate in the city, enrolling one in four students in the Alameda County district. The district is under pressure to cut at least $5.8 million next year and to close district schools to close its budget deficit. “We did make a tough decision,” Oakland school board President Aimee Eng told the state board. “And we hope the state stands behind our tough decision.” After intense discussion amid sympathy for Oakland’s situation, the state board during its meeting Thursday approved a new charter high school expected to open in the fall, based on the California Department of Education’s recommendation, which said it met all legal requirements. The board said the state law does not allow it to consider the charter school’s financial impact on the local district. However, Glen Price, chief deputy superintendent of the California Department of Education, said California’s charter school laws — passed in the early 1990s — were outdated and needed to be revised.
Other News of Note
Benjamin Herold, Education Week
On the heels of horrific school shootings and mounting concerns about student safety, technology companies and K-12 leaders are starting to consider a new strategy: facial recognition. In Arkansas and New York, districts already have laid out significant investments for systems that promise to combine surveillance cameras with machine learning algorithms to identify people, objects, and even behaviors that could present safety threats. Consumer companies such as Face-Six, Suspect Technologies, and FaceFirst—most of which initially deployed their technologies in law enforcement, public safety, and retail settings—are exploring the education market, from day-care centers to universities.