When Weather and School Segregation Collide

WHEN A MAJOR WINTER storm ripped across the South over the weekend, dumping nearly a foot of snow in parts of North Carolina and prompting some school systems to cancel classes Monday, it sparked a public debate about school segregation.

“Long thread about our countywide school system and inclement weather,” Wake County schools posted to Twitter Sunday afternoon. “Grab a mug of hot chocolate and listen in.”

What came next was a long explanation-cum-history lesson about Wake County schools’ integration efforts: “Most importantly, there is a very, very, very important reason why our school system is countywide,” Wake County schools posted to Twitter. “It’s the foundation of our success as a community. It is the reason our community has prospered. It’s why our taxes are low. It’s what attracted many of you to move here. It is why all of our schools are good schools.”

The thread was a response to someone on Twitter who, in reacting to a Wake County science teacher’s tweet about the possibility of school being canceled Monday, argued there should be two separate school systems in Wake County because the weather impacts parts of the county differently.

Full story at US News

When The ‘White Tears’ Just Keep Coming

Talking about race is hard. It often involves hurt feelings and misunderstandings. And the words and phrases we use can either push those conversations forward or bring them to a standstill. One such term: white tears.

The phrase has been used to gently tease white people who get upset at things they think threaten their white privilege. It’s been used to poke fun at white people who think that talking about race makes you a racist. Or that Barack Obama’s presidency marked the end of America. Or that it’s a crime against humanity when a formerly white character is portrayed, or rumored to be portrayed, by a person of color. (Think Spider-Man. Annie. James Bond. Hermione. The Human Torch. Dorothy.)

Rather than spend time earnestly engaging with people who refuse to believe a fictional character could be someone who isn’t white, it’s easier (and way more fun) to just roll your eyes, dub their reaction “white tears” and move on.

Full story at npr.org

U.S. Department of Education Builds on Efforts to Improve Services for Students, Increase Effectiveness and Fairness of Office for Civil Rights Investigations

WASHINGTON — As part of its ongoing work to protect students’ civil rights and effectively, efficiently and fairly investigate civil rights complaints, today the U.S. Department of Education announced additional improvements to the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) Case Processing Manual (CPM).

“Our top priority in the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “Since joining the OCR team in June, I’ve reviewed our Case Processing Manual and received important and constructive feedback on it.  While we continue to work to improve the timeliness of OCR’s case processing, we have determined that additional revisions will help improve our work and allow us to be more responsive to students, stakeholders and our staff.”

The CPM provides guidelines for field investigators working to investigate and resolve complaints and to ensure schools comply with the laws and regulations enforced by OCR. The CPM underwent its last revision in March of 2018.

Full story at ed.gov

Small Classes, Small Benefits

SMALL CLASSES ARE VERY popular with parents. Fewer kids in a room can mean more personal attention for their little ones. Teachers like them, too. Fewer kids means fewer tests to mark and fewer disruptions. Communities across the United States have invested enormously in smaller classes over the past 50 years. Pupil-teacher ratios declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 17.9 in 1985 and dropped to a low of 15.3 in 2008. But after the 2008 recession, local budget cuts forced class sizes to increase again, bumping the pupil-teacher ratio up to 16.1 in 2014, according to the most recent federal data available.

There’s a general consensus among education researchers that smaller classes are more effective. (In graduate school, I was taught that the benefits of small classes kick in once the class size falls below 16 students.) The benefits of small classes have become something of an informal yardstick. When I have written about unrelated educational reforms, researchers often compare them to the effectiveness of class-size reductions to give me a sense of their relative impact.

Full story at US News

‘How Can I Be Effective?’: Teachers Suffering After Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — Regina Ferrell, a fourth-grade teacher in Bay County, stood before the local school board this week and pleaded: Please be flexible with teachers returning to classrooms after Hurricane Michael.

The board wants to reopen the county’s schools — the ones that weren’t destroyed — on Monday, with students returning two weeks later. But teachers like Ferrell say that could be difficult when their living situations are so tenuous.

“Monday’s awfully quick when so many of us are suffering,” said Ferrell, who lives in Panama City, the hardest-hit area. After she spoke to the board, two people in the audience pressed cash into her hands. Tears welled in her eyes.

Full story at US News

Education Is A Top Issue In Midterms, And Professors Promise To Encourage Voting

You’re reading NPR’s weekly roundup of education news.

Education is a top issue in the midterms

From the 36 gubernatorial races to some key state congressional races, education will be a major issue on Election Day. We’ve reported previously on how a record number of educators who are themselves running. There were teacher walkouts in six states this year. That issue alone has gotten people mobilized.

There’s something else that’s bringing education to the midterms: Betsy DeVos, the polarizing education secretary.

She has been mentioned in $3 million worth of political TV ads and dozens of Facebook ads, according to a new analysis by Politico. One analyst called her “shorthand” for “a lot of Trump administration bad stuff.”

Full story at npr.org

‘I Am Heartbroken’: Your Letters About Public Service Loan Forgiveness

“Thank YOU,” writes Cara Christensen, a first-grade teacher in Washington state who read NPR’s deep dive into the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). The reporting, she says, “made me feel not so alone.”

We received dozens of emails, tweets and Facebook comments from aggrieved borrowers responding to news that, over the past year, 99 percent of applications for the popular loan-forgiveness program have been denied.

PSLF offers the promise of loan forgiveness to nurses, teachers, first-responders and other student borrowers who work in public service for 10 years while keeping up with their loan payments. But it has been plagued by poor communication from the U.S. Department of Education and mismanaged by servicing companies the department pays to run its trillion-dollar student loan portfolio.

Full story at npr.org

U.S. Department of Education Releases Study and Accompanying Toolkit on Ed Tech for English Learners

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) today announced the release of the National Study on English Learners and Digital Resources. The study provides the first national look at how districts and educators use educational technology to instruct English learner students—the fastest-growing student population in the country.

Today’s students are entering classrooms that have seen rapid adoption of digital technologies in instruction. With these new technologies, teachers of English learner (EL) students, whether they are general education teachers or specialists in EL student instruction, have exciting new tools to support learning.

This toolkit brings suggestions and resources for educators who want to utilize new technology-based resources to help their EL students gain proficiency in English and meet academic goals. The toolkit offers five guiding principles for educators to apply in exploring new ways of working with and supporting EL students through technology. In addition, the toolkit has a companion—The Developer Toolkit which provides guidance for developers on the needs of English learner students and their teachers, tips on supports to include with their products that may be especially useful for English learners and ways they can communicate about their products with districts and educators of English learner students to facilitate adoption.

Full story at ed.gov

If ‘Free College’ Sounds Too Good To Be True, That’s Because It Often Is

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.”

Full story at npr.org

Education Department Considers Allowing Schools to Use Federal Money to Buy Guns

THE EDUCATION Department is considering allowing states to use federal funding to buy guns for teachers, according to a report in The New York Times.

The unprecedented move would reverse a long-held stance that the federal government should not fund the purchase of weapons.

In justifying the decision, the department is citing a program in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, called Student Support and Academic Enrichment. The program does not mention the prohibition of weapons purchases, which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would use to condone using grant money to fund gun purchases and training, according to the Times.

One of the three pillars of the program is to “improve school conditions for student learning.” People familiar with the situation told the Times that in its research the Education Department concluded that gun purchases could fall under this pillar. Currently, the guidelines for this section of the grant include encouraging schools to increase mental health counseling, reducing suspensions and establishing dropout prevention programs.

Full story at US News