On the morning of Monday, Aug. 27, Seth Frotman told his two young daughters that he would likely be home early that day and could take them to the playground. They cheered.
He did not tell them why their dad, who often worked long hours as the student loan watchdog at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be free for an afternoon play date.
Frotman assumed that after walking into his office and, at precisely 9:30 a.m., hitting “send” on an incendiary resignation letter to lawmakers accusing the Trump administration of betraying student borrowers, he would promptly be walked out with his things, and his career, in a cardboard box.
Does Harvard University discriminate against Asian-Americans in its admissions process?
That’s the question on trial in a Boston federal courtroom this week. At issue is whether Harvard unfairly discriminated against an Asian-American applicant who says the Ivy League school held him to higher standards than applicants of other races. This trial will also dissect a contentious political issue in higher education: affirmative action.
But what exactly is affirmative action, and how did it become such a controversial issue?
Today in U.S. higher education, affirmative action refers to policies that give students from underrepresented racial groups an advantage in the college admissions process, said Mark Naison, an African-American studies professor who teaches about affirmative action at Fordham University. But that wasn’t the original definition when it was introduced by President John Kennedy in the 1960s.
ONE WAS ON THE ROOF OF a Habitat for Humanity house in California when it occurred to her. Another was in a state senator’s office in Oklahoma City. Still another was at an education conference in Minneapolis when she began to consider it.
It’s a decision hundreds of educators across the country have made this year: To change the conditions in their classrooms, they would have to run for office themselves. Some 550 educators will be on election ballots this fall, according to the National Education Association, running for everything from local school board to governor.
Their numbers are particularly pronounced in states where teachers took to the streets and statehouses in the spring, places like Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia. At least 20 educators filed to run for Congress this cycle, and the hundreds of educators running for statehouse positions came from both political parties from Maine to Alaska. Though the exact issues varied – compensation, the upward creep in class sizes, the trickling pipeline of qualified educators – they pointed to a common theme of neglect in state K-12 education budgets.
That activism led to a spike in educators filing their election paperwork, says Carrie Pugh, the national political director for the National Education Association, which has compiled a database of the educator-candidates.
This question came up again and again Tuesday during an at-times heated hearing of the Senate’s education committee: Does the law allow schools to use federal money to arm teachers?
The federal money in question comes from Title IV of the big, k-12 federal education law known as The Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s a billion-dollar pot intended for what the law calls “student support and academic enrichment.”
“There’s a range of services that Title IV funds, from computer science programs, music, art, STEM, extended learning time,” said Shavar Jeffries, one of four witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing and head of Education Reform Now.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today recognized 349 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2018. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
“I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to the honorees. “We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”
The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.
Despite all the careful planning and prep, the school year has the capacity to quickly get stressful. As soon as I sense students are feeling overwhelmed, I try to find little techniques to help lighten the mood and detox any unnecessary stress from building up. When things start to feel like too much, I pull out one of my favorite techniques – The Dot Test – which I was fortunate enough to experience in graduate school. When I can pull it off, it’s one of my favorite lessons of the year.
The Story of the Dot Test
Upon entering the classroom, a lecturer greeted us and asked us to look up on the board and tell us what we saw. The board was seemingly empty. Everyone started looking at each other, all of us aware that we must be missing something. Finally, someone walked up to the board and said, “All I see is this small dot, is this what you meant?”
The lecturer said, “Yes that’s what I was hoping you’d find – the dot.” We were a bit confused, so he explained. “You see, I know you are all in the middle of a stressful year, but I wanted to tell you to enjoy it, because as stressful as the tests seem and as daunting as the homework might feel, throughout the grand scheme of your life you won’t remember any of it — it will be as significant as this small dot on this vast board. When you look back on this year, what you will remember are the friends you’ve made, the experiences you’ve had, and how your teachers made you feel. Don’t waste too much time being stressed out about the exams, because in the end, these tests won’t matter much in your life. They will become small dots. No matter what happens, you will all be okay and do great things.”
The new school year marches on, and so does our weekly roundup.
Tropical Storm Florence closes schools in the Carolinas
Rain measured in feet, not inches. Storm surges and power outages are the reality of this huge, slow-moving storm. Schools were closed Friday across coastal North Carolina and South Carolina. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, leaders made the controversial choice to keep nearly 150,000 students home under blue skies on Thursday to prep some schools as shelters.
DeVos loses court case on borrower forgiveness
A federal judge ruled this week that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ delay of a key Obama-era student borrower protection rule was unlawful. The judge is expected to order a remedy next week.
To millions of parents and students, they’re magical words: free college.
But is the idea pure fantasy?
More than a dozen states now offer grants, often called scholarships, promising to help qualifying students pay for some or all of their college education. In fact, that word, “promise,” shows up again and again in these programs’ official names: Nevada Promise, Oklahoma’s Promise, Oregon Promise, Tennessee Promise … you get the idea.
Sometimes referred to as “free college” programs, most are relatively new, sparked by the relentless rise in college costs and by a desire among state leaders to improve college access, especially for low-income students. Hundreds more free college programs have popped up at the local level, too. But a new review of 15 of these statewide programs, conducted by The Education Trust, finds that states vary wildly in how they define both “free” and “college.”
Sylvia Acevedo grew up on a dirt road in New Mexico. Her family was poor, living “paycheck to paycheck.”
After a meningitis outbreak in her Las Cruces neighborhood nearly killed her younger sister, her mother moved the family to a different neighborhood. At her new school, young Acevedo knew no one. Until a classmate convinced her to become a Brownie Girl Scout.
And from that moment, she says, her life took on a new path.
On one camping trip, Acevedo’s troop leader saw her looking up at the stars.
“I didn’t know that there were planets,” Acevedo remembers, “I didn’t know there were constellations.” Her troop leader pointed out the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and a few planets. Later, when the girls were earning badges, Acevedo’s leader remembered her fascination with the stars and suggested she try for her science badge.
AS WE PAUSE THIS LABOR Day to celebrate the nation’s workers, we should also think about those whose profession helps prepare the citizens and workforce of tomorrow: early childhood teachers who work with children every day.
A child’s first five years are the most critical for neurological development, with their brains forming more than one million neural connections per second. This is the time when the foundation is built for future success – brain wiring for social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Genetics and experiences both play a role in a child’s early development. And that is why access to early childhood education programs and to quality early educators matters so much.
Having high-quality programs hinges on having a high-quality workforce. But the field suffers from low wages, which leads to high turnover. Poor pay also leaves little incentive for early childhood teachers to return to college and earn degrees or other certifications to deepen their competencies and knowledge about how best to foster early learning. Today, the median hourly wage among those working in child care settings amounts to $10.72 per hour – about $22,000 per year. Indeed, preschool teachers earn a little more at about $13.94 per hour – about $29,000 per year. Despite the salary bump, these teachers still struggle to support their own families.