The Precarious Position of the Charter School Sector

MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced earlier this year that he had brokered an agreement with the mayor of New Bedford, home to one of the state’s worst performing school districts, and a charter school there to allow the school to open a new campus in the city as long as it enrolls students like a traditional neighborhood public school.

The deal garnered a lot of interest for potentially paving the way for other states and school districts looking to grow their charter sector in a politically fraught environment. But earlier this month, Massachusetts state legislators used rare procedural maneuvers to block the legislation needed to give the project a green light, preventing it from ever being introduced in committee and thus ever allowing lawmakers to vote on it.

In the Bay State, where voters said, “No, thank you,” just two years ago to expanding charter schools, critics of the New Bedford deal argue that they don’t want a two-tiered public school system, and anything that smacks of emboldening charter advocates – like a back-door deal to open a charter school – sets a dangerous precedent, even if it’s blessed by the mayor and state education commissioner.

Full story at US News

What Good K-12 Tech Leadership Looks Like

To be an effective K-12 technology leader, knowing your way around a server closet is no longer enough.

“I feel like one of my chief roles is being a translator,” said Phil Hintz, the director of technology for Illinois’ Gurnee School District 56. “I speak geek, but I also speak education.”

That sentiment was a recurring theme at the annual conference of the Consortium for School Networking, a professional organization for school tech leaders, held earlier this year in Portland, Ore. Technical expertise should be a given, leader after leader said. What truly separates the most valuable chief information and technology officers is everything else—from understanding classroom dynamics, to smart budgeting, to knowing how to say “no” and deliver bad news without making enemies.

Full story at edweek.org

Want Teachers to Motivate Their Students? Teach Them How to Do It

Most teachers intrinsically understand the need to motivate their students, experts say, but teaching on intuition alone can lead to missteps in student engagement.

A study released in May by the Mindset Scholars Network, a collaborative of researchers who study student motivation, found most teacher education programs nationwide do not include explicit training for teachers on the science of how to motivate students.

That’s why some teacher education programs are exploring ways to help teachers learn how to engage their students in deeper ways.

“Everyone has a gut sense of the importance of a student’s relationship with a teacher. … It’s not a scholarly understanding but a human understanding,” said Mayme Hostetter, the president of the Relay Graduate School of Education, one of the few programs nationwide with formal courses for teachers on student motivation.

Full story at edweek.org

What Researchers Wish They Knew About School Finance

From the business world to sports to education, analytics are all the rage, as rapidly evolving technology and data systems unleash a flood of new metrics that decision makers can use in developing strategies and making choices. But even with the smorgasbord of new information, some potentially important indicators remain unavailable.

That’s certainly true in the education finance arena, where policies are still driven, at least in part, by the unknown and by the lack of detailed data on key topics.

“[School] system leaders often seem unaware of the unintended consequences of long-standing spending practices,” Marguerite Roza, the director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, and Carrie Stewart, managing director of the Afton Partners consulting firm wrote in an article for AASA, the School Superintendents Association. They suggest that digging into school-level-spending data can help in better understanding these patterns.

Full story at Education Week

What Economists Think About Democrats’ New Education Proposals

Democratic presidential candidates have been watching a historic wave of teacher strikes and protests sweeping the nation — and they want to give teachers a raise.

Kamala Harris wants to spend $315 billion over 10 years to increase the annual salary of an average teacher by $13,500. Joe Biden wants to triple spending on a federal program for low-income schools and use much of those funds for “competitive salaries.” And Bernie Sanders wants to work with states to set a minimum $60,000 starting salary for the nation’s teachers.

But there’s something missing from these proposals, and it reveals a dramatic shift from a decade ago in how the Democratic Party wants to fix education.

Full story at npr.org

This Teen Planned A School Shooting. But Did He Break The Law?

It was sunny and cold on Feb. 13, 2018, when 18-year-old Jack Sawyer walked out of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Rutland, Vt., with a brand-new pump-action shotgun and four boxes of ammunition.

The next day, Valentine’s Day, Sawyer took his new gun out for target practice.

Around the same time, about 1,500 miles away in Parkland, Fla., a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Full story at npr.org

2020 Dems Go Big on Public Education

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT and 2020 contender Joe Biden stood alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Tuesday evening in Houston and outlined the first major policy platform of his campaign – supercharging the federal investment in the country’s public schools in order to level the playing for poor students, students of color and those with disabilities and boost teacher pay, among many other things.

“It’s past time we treat and compensate our educators as the professionals they are, and that we make a commitment that no child’s future will be determined by zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability,” he said.

Biden is in good company with his grand gesture to K-12 education.

Full story at US News

California Teachers Pay For Their Own Substitutes During Extended Sick Leave

A 40-year-old California law requiring public school teachers on extended sick leave to pay for their own substitute teachers is under scrutiny by some state lawmakers after NPR member station KQED reported on the practice.

KQED found that a San Francisco Unified elementary school teacher had to pay the cost of her own substitute — amounting to nearly half of her paycheck — while she underwent extended cancer treatment. Since the story published, more public school teachers have reached out to describe similar hardships.

Unlike many other employees, public school teachers in California don’t pay into the state disability insurance program and can’t draw benefits from it. Under the California Education Code, teachers get 10 sick days a year, after which they receive 100 days of extended sick leave. It’s during this latter period that the cost of a substitute teacher is deducted from their salary.

Full story at NPR

Secretary DeVos Builds on “Rethink Higher Education” Agenda, Expands Opportunities for Students Through Innovative Experimental Sites

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the launch of the first new higher education experimental site during her tenure and is inviting new participants to join another experiment already underway.

The new Federal Work-Study (FWS) Experiment will provide institutions with increased flexibilities that will enable students to earn work-study benefits while participating in apprenticeships, internships and work-based learning programs, as well as earn work-study wages while completing required clinical rotations, externships and student teaching.

“For decades, the Federal Work-Study program has allowed students to support themselves while earning a college degree, but for too long, the majority of the work options students have had access to have been irrelevant to their chosen field of study,” said Secretary DeVos. “That will change with this experimental site. We want all students to have access to relevant earn-and-learn experiences that will prepare them for future employment.”

Full story at ed.gov

Gates Foundation Asks: Is College Worth It?

THE BILL AND MELINDA Gates Foundation, the philanthropic and sometimes controversial group whose funding has influenced major education policy decisions in the U.S., is launching a new higher education initiative to answer the question, “Is college worth it?”

“More than at any other time I can remember, students and families across America are asking themselves, is college worth it,'” Sue Desmond-Hellmann, president of the Gates Foundation, said. “As the cost of a credential rises and student debt goes to record levels, people are actually asking a question I never thought I’d hear, ‘Is going to college a reliable path to economic opportunity?’ This question of value needs to be addressed, and we feel that it needs to be addressed urgently.”

To that end, the foundation has convened a 30-person commission to evaluate the returns of education after high school, especially for low-income students and students of color.

Full story at US News