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

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

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

Textbook Giant Pearson Makes Major Shift Away From Print to Digital

CALLING IT A “generational business shift,” textbook publishing giant Pearson announced Tuesday that all future updates to its 1,500 U.S. titles will occur digitally, a move company officials say will push the academic publishing industry into the 21st century and save students money by ending lengthy and expensive print revisions.

“The history of this business is as a college textbook publisher, and really over the last 20 years, like many of the other industries like newspapers and music publishing, we’ve seen a gradual shift from digital where over time digital time has become a more important part of the offering,” John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, says. “We’ve really reached a tipping point.”

London-based Pearson, the $8.5 billion company, is the largest provider of college textbooks in the U.S. It now has more than 10 million digital registrations each year coming from the company’s current offering of about 1,500 titles that cover all major course offerings at colleges and universities.

Full story at US News

Supreme Court to Hear School Choice Case

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT agreed to hear oral arguments this fall concerning a decision by Montana’s Supreme Court to halt the operation of a tax credit scholarship program that allowed students to enroll in private schools, including private religious schools.

The announcement Friday breathed new life into the private school choice movement, which has made little to no headway at the federal level despite a tax credit scholarship being the No. 1 agenda item of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, herself a private school choice supporter.

Private school choice advocates cheered the decision by the high court to review Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, saying they’re hopeful the court will provide a definitive answer on the constitutionality of directing public money or aid to private religious schools.

Full story at US News

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

Teachers in Florida Can Carry a Firearm in School

FLORIDA GOV. RON DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law Wednesday a measure that will allow teachers to carry a firearm in school.

The contentious move comes one day after a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Douglas County, Colorado, where one student died and eight others were injured. According to Education Week’s school shooting tracker, it was the 12th school shooting this year that resulted in a death or injury.

As it stands, Florida law already requires schools to have at least one armed person on site, which is often a school law enforcement officer. The measure signed by DeSantis expands the eligibility of a so-called guardian program put in place a month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 students and staff were killed.

Full story at US News

In Oregon, a Lawsuit Aimed at Supporting Disabled Students

A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND lawsuit charging that the state of Oregon has failed to provide full school days to students with mental, emotional and behavioral disabilities could create a model for other states to stop the practice of shortening school days.

The class action lawsuit – filed Jan. 22 in U.S. district court by Disability Rights Oregon and other groups – says Oregon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by the “unnecessary segregation” of children with disabilities. The lawsuit alleges that schools in Oregon, mainly in rural areas, send students home on a regular, sometimes daily basis, for all or parts of the school day, citing behavior issues or safety concerns stemming from behavioral, mental and emotional disorders such as autism.

Joel Greenberg, a Disability Rights Oregon attorney, says the practice often makes disabled students feel “that they don’t belong in school.”

Full story at US News

White Students Get More K-12 Funding Than Students of Color: Report

SCHOOL DISTRICTS WHERE the majority of students enrolled are students of color receive $23 billion less in education funding than predominantly white school districts, despite serving the same number of students – a dramatic discrepancy that underscores the depth of K-12 funding inequities in the U.S.

The top-line finding included in a new report from EdBuild, a nonprofit that focuses on education funding, calls into question the ways state and local dollars are used to prop up some children at the expense of others and exposes a similarly startling funding discrepancy even when comparing poor white and poor nonwhite school districts.

“What we wanted to determine was, in a country where we are so fractured by race, geographically, how does that play out and how much money on the whole do kids who are nonwhite receive versus kids who are white,” Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EdBuild, says.

Full story at US News

‘Any talks of striking?’: How a West Virginia teacher’s Facebook post started a national movement

The coal miner’s son had studied his county’s rough-and-tumble labor history, written his dissertation on it, taught his high school students about it.

Now Eric Starr, who knew history never repeats itself, felt history doing just that. And he was part of it.

Standing at a secret meeting like those held by striking miners a century ago, dressed in black except for a red bandana like the ones those miners wore, he exhorted his fellow public school teachers to defy the governor and their own unions and stay out on strike.

“I’m not going back,’’ he said. “We’ve been sold out!’’

Full story at USA Today