‘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

Secretary DeVos Visits “She Can” STEM Summer Camp

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos earlier this week visited with sixth through eighth grade girls participating in the Smithsonian’s “She Can” STEM Summer Camp to highlight the exciting opportunities available in STEM fields. The camp, which was open to Washington, D.C. area girls who attend Title 1 Schools, doubled in size with support from the Department of Education. President Donald J. Trump donated his second quarter salary to the Department of Education to fund a STEM-focused camp.

At the camp, students learned about the science of flight and were exposed to a wide array of aviation-related activities and career paths. During the Secretary’s visit she worked with a group of girls to build and fly their own drones, was a passenger in an FAA-certified flight simulator and toured the Boeing Aviation Hangar.

Full story at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Proposes Overhaul of Gainful Employment Regulations

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Education today announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to rescind Gainful Employment (GE) regulations in order to provide useful, transparent higher education data to students and treat all institutions of higher education fairly.

“Students deserve useful and relevant data when making important decisions about their education post-high school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “That’s why instead of targeting schools simply by their tax status, this administration is working to ensure students have transparent, meaningful information about all colleges and all programs. Our new approach will aid students across all sectors of higher education and improve accountability.”

Full story at ed.gov

Electronics in the Classroom Lead to Lower Test Scores

USING ELECTRONIC devices in the classroom can be distracting to students and lead to lower grades.

A study published in the journal Educational Psychology found that students who had cellphones or laptops present while a lesson was being taught scored five percent, or half a letter grade, lower on exams than students who didn’t use electronics.

Researchers separated 118 college students enrolled in the same course into two groups. Each group was taught the same material by the same professor, but one group was allowed to have cellphones and laptops open for non-academic purposes, while the other group was not. While the students allowed electronics didn’t score lower on comprehension tests during lectures, they scored lower on exams at the end of the term.

Full story at US News

For Many College Students, Hunger ‘Makes It Hard To Focus’

As students enter college this fall, many will hunger for more than knowledge. Up to half of college students in recent published studies say they either are not getting enough to eat or are worried about it.

This food insecurity is most prevalent at community colleges, but it’s common at public and private four-year schools as well.

Student activists and advocates in the education community have drawn attention to the problem in recent years, and the food pantries that have sprung up at hundreds of schools are perhaps the most visible sign. Some schools nationally also have instituted the Swipe Out Hunger program, which allows students to donate their unused meal plan vouchers, or “swipes,” to other students to use at campus dining halls or food pantries.

That’s a start, say analysts studying the problem of campus hunger, but more system-wide solutions are needed.

Full story at NPR