The Case For Summer Vacation

Put down those popsicles. No more sleeping in. Beach time is over.

Economists have long hated summer vacation. All those wasted school facilities! All that educational backsliding! Kids are getting dumber!

The conventional wisdom is that summer vacation is a relic of agricultural times, when kids had to help out their parents on the farm. But the economist William Fischel says that story is completely wrong.

“When the U.S. was a farming country, in the 1800s, kids went to school during the summer and winter,” he says. Rural kids had to take fall off for the harvest and spring off for planting. In other words, summer vacation would have “actually worked against the rhythms of agriculture.”

Full story at NPR

Not just Capital One, Equifax: Data breaches at school, risking your family’s security

Districts maintain reams of sensitive information about employees, students and families, all of it online and accessible to varying degrees to hundreds or thousands of employees – not all of whom were paying particularly close attention in this year’s mandatory cybersecurity webinar. With annual budgets in the tens or hundreds of millions, their pockets are deep, at least in theory, for the purposes of paying ransom.

And they can’t very well afford not to retrieve their data.

“On the list of things that keep me up at night, it’s a high one,” said John Miller, director of technology, data and program evaluation at the Hilton Central School District, about 20 miles north of Rochester, New York.

“If you ask any tech-related person in the field, they’ll tell you the same thing. … None of us want this to happen to us.”

Full story at USA Today

Four States Now Require Schools to Teach LGBT History

Starting next school year, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history will be part of the curriculum in Illinois public schools.

Democratic Governor J. B. Pritzker signed House Bill 246 into law Aug. 9, making Illinois the fourth state to mandate teaching LGBT history, after California, New Jersey, and Colorado. The Illinois legislation takes effect in July 2020.

The law mandates that history classes in public schools “include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.” Any textbooks bought with state funding must cover “the roles and contributions” of LGBT people, and can’t include content that is discriminatory to any particular gender or sexual orientation.

Nationwide, LGBT history often doesn’t make it into the curriculum. Just under a quarter of students say that they have learned about LGBT-related topics in their classes, according to 2016 research from GLSEN, a national advocacy group for LGBTQ students.

Full story at Education Week

900 New York City Classrooms Test Positive for Lead

MORE THAN 900 classrooms in New York City public schools tested positive for lead in recent months, according to data released by the city’s Department of Education.

The presence of lead-based paint and visible deterioration was found in 938 classrooms, according to the inspection by the city of more than 5,400 classrooms in nearly 800 schools built before 1985. Officials found deteriorating lead paint in 302 of the schools and deteriorating paint in 2,245 classrooms.

The findings were the result of typical end-of-year wear and tear, according to department officials, and will be fixed by the start of the school year. The inspections follow a local news investigation that found dangerous levels of lead in four schools.

“These inspections were done at the end of the year when classrooms have been used all year and are transitioning out and teachers are taking down posters,” says Miranda Barbot, the first deputy press secretary for the New York City Department of Education. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for there to be this type of wear and tear in the classroom.”

Full story at US News

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Calls on National Education Association to Drop Lawsuit that Puts Financial Aid for Students in Jeopardy

WASHINGTON—U.S.Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called on the National Education Association (NEA) today to drop its politically-motivated lawsuit and stop standing in the way of students working to complete their post secondary education program.

The NEA recently sued the department over its delay in implementing Obama-era rules that govern state standards for online education. The rules require, among other things, that all institutions providing distance education to students in another state document that the state has a process for those students to complain against that institution.

Unfortunately, not all states have the required complaint processes or interstate agreements in place. As a result, the 2016 regulation would deny federal aid to a number of students receiving distance education because their institutions cannot meet the complaint process requirement in one or more states.

Full story at ed.gov

DeVos Wants to Prioritize Education Funding for Opportunity Zones

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION Betsy DeVos wants to prioritize federal education funding for areas of the country that qualify as opportunity zones – a move that if finalized, could shift hundreds of millions of dollars away from some communities and to others.

As part of the 2017 tax law, the Trump administration has certified more than 8,700 opportunity zones, which provide tax incentives to attract investment in business or real estate located within certain economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with the goal of revitalizing those areas. But it’s unclear whether policies like opportunity zones actually benefit distressed communities at all, let alone move the needle on education achievement.

DeVos’ proposal, published Monday in the Federal Register, would give priority to applicants who propose projects in those opportunity zones for more than 80 education grant competitions, which collectively total more than $700 million.

Full story at US News

You 2.0: The Empathy Gym

What books are on your summer reading list?

If you’re reading mostly nonfiction, consider the benefits of adding a novel to the mix.

“There’s a fair amount of evidence now that the more fiction that people read, the more empathetic that they become,” says Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. “Because fiction is one of the most powerful ways to connect with people who are different from us who we might not have a chance to meet otherwise.”

Zaki argues that empathy is like a muscle — it can be strengthened with exercise and it can atrophy when idle. On this episode of Hidden Brain, we talk about calibrating our empathy so we can interact with others more mindfully.

Full story at npr.org

California Parents Home-School Kids to Bypass Mandatory Vaccination Law

CALIFORNIA PARENTS ARE increasingly exploiting a loophole in the state’s mandatory vaccination law that allows their children to forgo vaccines if they are home-schooled.

In 2016, California implemented one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, requiring all children be vaccinated, despite personal or religious beliefs, in order to attend school unless a doctor deemed it unsafe because of a medical condition. The legislation also allowed schools to deny admittance to unvaccinated students.

However, parents began enlisting health care professionals to provide medical exemptions that may not have been warranted. The Sacramento Bee reported in April on the surge in exemptions, stating that doctors in the state have broad power to grant exemptions for required vaccines, and some providers give them out in exchange for cash.

Full story at US News

Race and School Discipline

BLACK STUDENTS WITH disabilities are disciplined more often than their white peers, pushing them into the school-to-prison pipeline at higher rates, a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows – just the latest finding to stoke an ongoing debate over the role race plays in school discipline.

“Ignoring the reality that kids can be harmed and that it is our educators’ obligation to ensure that they are not harmed has an obvious impact on students of color in particular and students with disabilities in particular,” Catherine Lhamon, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says. “When we know that turning away from specific harms to specific identity groups will hurt their educational opportunity and their rights in schools, we are taking steps we ought not to take.”

The 224-page report draws on data from the Department of Education and its Office for Civil Rights to argue that students of color don’t commit more offenses than their white peers but receive “substantially more” discipline than them, as well as harder and longer punishments for similar offenses. At the same time, the report underscores, data shows that students with disabilities are about twice as likely to be suspended compared to those without disabilities.

Full story at US News

As Scrutiny Of China Grows, Some U.S. Schools Drop A Language Program

The Defense Department wants more Americans to speak Chinese, and it provides millions of dollars to train students at U.S. universities.

China’s government, through language centers known as Confucius Institutes, has been doing the same thing, for the same reasons, and at some of the same U.S. universities.

But a new law has forced these American universities to choose: They can take money from the Pentagon or from the Confucius Institute — but not both.

“Confucius Institutes expose U.S. universities to espionage, to the threat of theft of intellectual property, which we are seeing far too frequently at colleges and universities,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in an interview with NPR.

Full story at npr.org