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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post
House Republicans issued a 2018 budget bill Tuesday afternoon that rejects several higher education cuts proposed by President Trump but upholds plans to pull billions of dollars in reserves out of the Pell Grant program for needy college students. Ahead of a markup slated for Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released the full funding report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies that provides money for programs placed on the chopping block in the White House budget. Instead of eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the committee wants to set aside the same $733 million keeping the program afloat this year. It also maintained the existing funding for the federal work-study program that helps students work their way through college, rather than cut the program’s funding in half, as Trump proposed. Trump had sought nearly $200 million in cuts to the TRIO and Gear Up programs, which help disadvantaged students in middle and high schools prepare for college, but appropriators are pouring $60 million and $10 million more into each respective program. Policy analysts anticipated that the White House proposal would run into bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have historically supported the college-readiness programs, albeit with modest appropriations.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which just two months ago saw a pro-charter school majority elected to the Board of Education for the first time, is about to get another jolt. Philanthropist and former investment banker Austin Beutner has assembled an advisory panel to work with Los Angeles schools Supt. Michelle King. The group, which includes business, philanthropic and community leaders, will start with the nuts-and-bolts issue of improving student attendance but intends to conduct a broad review of district operations.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
The latest attempt in the Legislature to lengthen the probation period for new teachers has stalled for the year. On Wednesday, the author of a bill to add an optional extra probationary year pulled her bill amid the surprise emergence of a competing bill by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction. Thurmond’s Assembly Bill 1164 adopts the position of the California Teachers Association, which is expected to support his candidacy, and appeared last week as an alternative to a bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. Her bill would extend the standard two-year probation to a third year for those teachers “on the bubble,” showing potential but needing further help and supervision. Thurmond’s bill also would permit a third probationary year, but contains conditions and restrictions, advocated by the teachers’ unions but criticized by school districts, that aren’t in Weber’s bill.
Language, Culture, and Power
Kayla Lattimore, NPR
Raising teenage girls can be a tough job. Raising black teenage girls as white parents can be even tougher. Aaron and Colleen Cook knew that when they adopted their twin daughters, Mya and Deanna. As spring came around this year, the girls, who just turned 16, told their parents they wanted to get braided hair extensions. Their parents happily obliged, wanting Mya and Deanna to feel closer to their black heritage. But when the girls got to school, they were asked to step out of class. Both were given several infractions for violating the dress code. Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, north of Boston, bans hair extensions in its dress code, deeming them “distracting.” When administrators asked the girls to remove their braids, Mya and Deanna refused.
Ashley Hopkinson, EdSource
In the midst of a statewide teacher shortage, the new California state budget includes $5 million to address a shortfall of bilingual teachers, a shortage a new study concludes will continue following the passage of Proposition 58 and the expected growth of bilingual programs. The new state law, in effect on July 1, lifted an almost 20-year ban on bilingual education and gives districts more flexibility to offer bilingual classes to all students. Under the old law English learners had to be taught in English, unless a parent signed a waiver to enroll their child in bilingual or dual language programs — classrooms where students are taught in English and another language such as Mandarin or Spanish. The goal is learning to read, write and speak in both languages. The change came about because of Proposition 58, which voters approved last year by a vote of 73.5 percent to 26.5 percent. It implements the California Multilingual Education Act of 2016 and allows public schools to teach English learners and all students through multiple programs.
Corey Mitchell, Education Week
Consistently exposing English-learner students to the language before they begin their formal education could pave their path to bilingualism, according to new research from the University of Washington. A research team from the university’s Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences traveled to Madrid, Spain, to work with English-learners there, using a language-intensive, small-group, play-based method that demonstrated encouraging results. The tutored children outperformed peers who were enrolled in traditional bilingual programs, speaking in English five times as often and retaining their language skills more than four months after the program ended. Published in the academic journal Mind, Brain and Education, the research offers insight into how to teach English to young children whose parents don’t speak the language. If the research team can reproduce the results in the United States, the work could have implications for how and when the nation’s English-learners are taught the language. Even waiting until kindergarten to introduce English-learners to English could hinder efforts to help them learn the language, the lead researchers argue.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Priska Neely, KPCC
At the beginning of middle school, Monica Wilson thought theater was “weird.” “I thought it was wimpy. I was just trying to be cool,” said Wilson, 13. ” ‘I said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ “She only auditioned for a musical two years ago, as part of an after-school theater program at KIPP Scholar Academy in South Los Angeles, because she thought she wouldn’t get in. The rising eighth grader who describes herself as “weird, fun, bossy, mean, and etc,” thought she’d be able to escape doing after-school activities. But, to her surprise, she secured a part and gained a love for acting. “It really makes you get all that weirdness out,” she said. “And you get to express it with other people and they’re weird, too. So it’s like weird wonderland! It showed me that being yourself is awesome.”
Moriah Balingit and Sharif Hassan, The Washington Post
As six robots battled it out on the floor of the DAR Constitution Hall’s auditorium during the FIRST Global Challenge competition Tuesday afternoon, a cheer rose above the din of voices echoing across the stands. “Team Hope! Team Hope! Team Hope!” The cheering came from a corner of the stadium where a group of boys from Team Lebanon — wearing rainbow clown wigs — stood next to Team Palestine. They, and teams from Libya and Jordan, were lending their voices to support a group of Syrian refugees, known as Team Hope. It was one of many times when teens would spontaneously break out into cheers for competitors. When they weren’t cheering, hundreds of teens from 157 countries mingled, chatted and leaned in for selfies in the sweltering corridors of the concert hall at the first international Global Challenge competition. In between making final adjustments on their robots, a bonding experience that has become central to this competition, they signed each other’s T-shirts and exchanged pins. If they did not speak the same language, they all understood the thrill, the frustration and the anxiety that comes with competition.
Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource
A new review of studies from around the world found that students who were taught positive social skills at school reported higher levels of those skills months and even years afterward, compared to their peers who were not taught those skills. The long-term benefits of social and emotional learning appeared regardless of the students’ economic or racial background or the rural, suburban or city location of the school, according to the meta-analysis published this month in the journal Child Development. Social and emotional learning is an organized approach to teaching students personal skills, including how to identify emotions, empathize with others and resolve conflicts. Four researchers affiliated with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, a Chicago-based organization that promotes social and emotional learning, analyzed 82 studies that tracked students who had participated in youth development programs that included social and emotional skill-building.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
Researchers have received a $3.26-million federal grant to study the effectiveness of online academic credit recovery programs — the kind that allow students to make up failed classes and graduate on time — in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The grant, from the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, will pay for the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit research group, to study how online makeup courses for Algebra 1 and ninth-grade English compare with retaking the class in person. “The growing use of online credit recovery for high school students has outpaced the research,” the grant description reads. “As concerns mount over whether students actually learn in online courses, and as questions arise about how to best implement online credit recovery, there is a critical need for rigorous evidence about the effective use of online credit recovery for high school students.”
Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
California’s governing body overseeing the state’s 114 community colleges voted unanimously today to approve a new set of goals and commitments aimed at significantly increasing the transfer and degree-completion rates of community college students. While praising the plan’s targets, members of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors also questioned whether the goals can become reality given the state’s complicated structure for governing community colleges. “It’s very impressive obviously to see this document done and the need that we have statewide to be more aspirational, to have goals, to have strategies of core commitments,” said board member Joseph J. Bielanski. “The question to me is how does this get rolled out to the 72 districts so that the 72 districts become invested in this?”
T. Rees Shapiro, The Washington Post
Military veterans and their families would see a significant expansion of education benefits through a bill that is being considered by a committee in the House. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.), the panel’s ranking Democrat, would bolster the GI Bill, which offers tuition assistance, by allowing a longer time frame for using that assistance. “We have a duty to care for every man and woman who has served their country honorably as they begin their transition from active duty to civilian life,” Roe said in a statement. “One essential way we can empower service members is to give them the tools they need to succeed in whatever career they pursue.”
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
State board, advocacy groups fundamentally disagree over plan for complying with federal education law
John Fensterwald, EdSource
After much talk and testimony at a nine-hour meeting, the State Board of Education made modest changes last week to its draft of the state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Board members are confident the plan will soon be ready to pass along to the federal government for approval. Members of a coalition of two dozen civil rights and student advocacy organizations said the changes will do little to improve a plan that’s still vague and weak. “After months of feedback and engagement, the current plan still doesn’t address the core issues that we know are absolutely essential to support high-need students,” Samantha Tran, senior director of education programming for the nonprofit Children Now, wrote in an email. “The state seems to be abdicating an essential civil rights role, and it’s disheartening. The comment reflects a core disagreement over how most board members and advocacy groups view the purpose and value of the plan. In it, California must spell out for the U.S. Department of Education how it will spend about $2.5 billion in federal funding to improve achievement for low-income children, English learners and migrant children and to train teachers and school leaders. The plan must also explain how the state will identify and help transform the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools receiving federal money.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
On Thursday the University of California Regents approved new college application guidelines that allow campuses to ask for additional information from tens of thousands of high school seniors applying for admission. The Policy on Augmented Review in Undergraduate Admissions allows campus admission officers to ask for no more than two letters of recommendation and other supplemental information from no more than 15 percent of applicants. Staff said the policy gives campuses ways to get more information about applicants as admissions offices are flooded by applications.
Shankar Vedantam, NPR
Every year, many students who have overcome daunting obstacles in high school receive good news — they’ve been accepted to college. These kids represent a success story: through hard work and determination, they’ve made into college, and perhaps even on to a better life. Except it doesn’t always work out that way. “The rate with which kids who are college-intending do not actually get to college in the fall is surprisingly high,” says Lindsay Page, an education researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. “In one sample that we looked at in the Boston area, we find that upwards of 20% of kids who at the time of high school graduation say that they’re continuing on to college — about 20% of those kids don’t actually show up in the fall.” Researchers call this phenomenon “summer melt” — and for universities, it has long been a puzzling problem. Because these are the kids who made it: they’ve taken the SATs, been accepted to a college of their choice, applied for and received financial aid. Why wouldn’t they show up for college on day one? This week on Hidden Brain, we explore this problem, and how one university is working to fix it.
Public Schools and Private $
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos just gave her first major speech about special education — and it raised new questions about her understanding of the issues that students with disabilities face. Again, exactly six months after the first ones. . . . No, she didn’t start out talking about the lack of resources that traditional public school districts — which educate the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren — have in trying to meet the needs of special needs students. Rather, she started out by talking about school choice. First, she noted that a friend of hers had, admirably, adopted a daughter with physical and cognitive disabilities and then got to choose which school to put her in. Then she lamented the fact that every family can’t choose the school they want. Soon after she said this: We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes. The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.
Arianna Prothero, Education Week
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos—an ardent school choice supporter who has turned out to be among the Trump administration’s most polarizing cabinet picks—will deliver a speech this week to members of a controversial organization that some argue is her best shot at advancing an aggressive school choice agenda. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is known for drafting conservative model legislation in states on a range of issues including gun rights, tax reform, and education. DeVos will appear at ALEC’s annual meeting Thursday in Denver. Ask a conservative, and they’re likely to describe ALEC as a membership organization that brings together private industry leaders and Republican state lawmakers to draft soundly conservative policies. Ask a liberal, and they’re likely to say ALEC is a shadowy group of corporate types pushing a destructive, far-right agenda. But regardless of political persuasion, there are two points most would agree on: ALEC is successful at influencing policy in statehouses, and its focus on private school choice dovetails perfectly with DeVos’ education priorities.
Trump wants to spend millions more on school vouchers. But what’s happened to the millions already spent?
Mandy McLaren and Emma Brown, The Washington Post
Congress dedicates $15 million a year to a program that helps low-income D.C. students pay tuition at private schools, but it’s impossible for taxpayers to find out where their money goes: The administrator of the D.C. voucher program refuses to say how many students attend each school or how many public dollars they receive. It’s also not clear how students are performing in each school. When Congress created the program in 2004, it did not require individual private schools to disclose anything about student performance. And private schools can continue receiving voucher dollars no matter how poorly their students fare. President Trump has said the D.C. voucher program is “what winning for young children and kids from all over the country looks like,” and he has freed up millions of dollars in federal funds to expand it, allowing nearly triple the number of students to participate by next school year.
Other News of Note
Susana Gonzalez, Telemundo 33
“Organizaciones a favor de la educación junto a padres de familias de treinta ciudades de California se reunieron en el capitolio para luchar contra la amenaza que enfrentan ante la posible reducción de fondos de un programa educativo que afectaría a miles de alumnus inmigrantes y de bajos recursos económicos.”