Teachers Are the Key to Quality Education

AS WE PAUSE THIS LABOR Day to celebrate the nation’s workers, we should also think about those whose profession helps prepare the citizens and workforce of tomorrow: early childhood teachers who work with children every day.

A child’s first five years are the most critical for neurological development, with their brains forming more than one million neural connections per second. This is the time when the foundation is built for future success – brain wiring for social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Genetics and experiences both play a role in a child’s early development. And that is why access to early childhood education programs and to quality early educators matters so much.

Having high-quality programs hinges on having a high-quality workforce. But the field suffers from low wages, which leads to high turnover. Poor pay also leaves little incentive for early childhood teachers to return to college and earn degrees or other certifications to deepen their competencies and knowledge about how best to foster early learning. Today, the median hourly wage among those working in child care settings amounts to $10.72 per hour – about $22,000 per year. Indeed, preschool teachers earn a little more at about $13.94 per hour – about $29,000 per year. Despite the salary bump, these teachers still struggle to support their own families.

Full story at US News

‘Lies My Teacher Told Me,’ And How American History Can Be Used As A Weapon

When I was a high school junior in New Orleans taking AP American History, my teacher assigned us a paperback book. Slim in contrast to our hulking required textbook, it was a funny, compelling, even shocking read. Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen, explained how history textbooks got the story of America wrong, usually by soft-pedaling, oversimplifying and burying the thorny drama and uncertainties of the past under a blanket of dull, voice-of-God narration.

The book also taught a lot of history. It introduced me to concepts that still help me make sense of the world, like the “racial nadir” — the downturn in American race relations, starting after Reconstruction, which saw the rise of lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan. In doing so, Lies My Teacher Told Me overturned one assumption embedded in the history classes I’d been sitting through all my life: that the United States is constantly ascending from greatness to greatness.

Full story at npr.org

DeVos Family Money Is All Over The News Right Now

From the policy of separating immigrant families, to limiting the power of labor unions, to naming the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, this summer the DeVos family name has been all over the news.

Over the years, the parents, in-laws and husband of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have given hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes. And many of those causes are front and center of policy initiatives and goals of the Trump administration right now.

Those foundations include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation (founded by the education secretary and her husband); the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (formerly the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation), founded by Betsy DeVos’ in-laws; and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, founded by her parents.

Full story at NPR.org

Cash-Strapped School Districts Left Behind by Wealthier Neighbors

POOR SCHOOL SYSTEMS across the country are being left to wither as wealthier districts shut the door on their cash-strapped neighbors, and states are doing little to stop it, a new report finds.

Because schools are funded in large part by local property taxes, they are vulnerable to the same economic swings as the communities in which they are located. When things go south, many states do little to ensure the struggling districts that can no longer afford to operate schools are absorbed by their more well-heeled neighboring districts.

“What happens when the local economy bottoms out like we’ve seen in a lot of Rust Belt states in part? What happens to the kids that are left there?” says Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EdBuild, an education nonprofit that focuses on school funding. “School districts are forced to go hat in hand to all of their neighbors and beg them to take their kids.”

Full story at US News

This College For Adult Learners Is A Refuge, Not Just A Career Boost

In the U.S., more than 4 out of 10 undergraduate college students are above the age of 25. When people talk about these adult students, you usually hear words like “job skills” and “quickest path to a degree.”

But for more than four decades, a special program in Washington state has sought to offer much more than that.

It’s called the Tacoma Program. Back in 1972, Maxine Mimms, a professor at The Evergreen State College, created a new kind of college at her kitchen table, designed to serve students who are starting over in life, and to give them access to deep, transformational learning.

Full story at NPR

Evenness vs. Isolation in Schools

HAVE U.S. SCHOOLS become more racially segregated in the past two decades? It should seem a simple question to answer, based on the racial composition of schools then and now. But it’s a raging debate among academics, journalists and policy advocates. It turns out that there are different ways to measure segregation or racial diversity and the different measures can sometimes point in opposite directions.

Consider the city of Providence, R.I. In 2000, just over a third, or 36 percent of the district’s 55 public schools were at least 90 percent minority – black, Hispanic or Asian. Fifteen years later, almost three quarters, or 74 percent, of the schools were 90 percent or more non-white. At first glance, that might look like a dramatic resegregation. It was the biggest jump in non-white schools of any district in the nation, according to Meredith Richards, an expert in school segregation at Southern Methodist University, who calculated these figures for The Hechinger Report.

Full story at US News

Study: Hotter Classrooms Make it Harder for Students to Learn

STUDENTS’ ABILITY TO learn is undermined when their classrooms are too hot, new research says, a finding that could help explain persistent gaps in performance between students in poorer regions and countries without consistent access to air conditioning and those in wealthier areas.

An analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research comparing student test scores with average temperatures suggests that when classrooms get too hot it prevents students from learning as well as they would in more comfortable temperatures, with lasting impacts on students’ future success and their ability to contribute economically. It also found that adequate investment in school infrastructure – namely air conditioning – can mitigate the negative effects of hot weather.

Researchers compared daily historical weather data collected by a network of thousands of weather stations across the United States operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the PSAT scores of 10 million students who took the test at least twice between 2001 and 2014.

Full story at US News

The Value of a Video

IN THE LAND OF parenting there are two camps: those who think educational videos can be good for their kids and those who think they’re a mind-numbing wasteland.

I tended to side with the latter when my daughter was in her preschool years because I was convinced that books and active play were superior. But we’ve all been exhausted at 6 a.m. and streamed videos from YouTube. Let’s just assume that my daughter watched more videos in her early childhood than I care to admit. Over time, I convinced myself that the videos I chose were better than most of the crap out there.

Wrong.

A team of four education researchers, led by Susan B. Neuman at New York University, conducted an in-depth study published in April 2018 of 100 of the most popular videos that claim to be “educational” and stream over Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and Google Play. They include “Sesame Street,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Martha Speaks” and “Dora the Explorer,” all highly regarded programs that frequently turn up on recommended lists. The researchers found that the majority of the videos taught specific vocabulary – more educational content than critics might assume. They also found that 4-year-olds were actually paying attention and learning new words.

Full story at US News

California’s Higher Ed Diversity Problem

In 1996, right after voters in California banned affirmative action in employment and college admissions, minority student enrollment at two and four-year institutions plummeted. What has happened since though, is pretty remarkable.

Of the 2.8 million students attending college in California today, two out of three come from racially and ethnically diverse populations. The most eye-popping increase in enrollment has been among Latinos.

They now make up 43 percent of all college students in California. Twenty-six percent are white, followed by Asian and Pacific Islanders at 16 percent and African Americans at 6 percent.

Full story at npr.org

Disparities Persist In School Discipline, Says Government Watchdog

Black students, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in K-12 schools across the country. That’s according to a new report, out Wednesday, from the non-partisan federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office.

Those disparities were consistent, “regardless of the type of disciplinary action, regardless of the level of school poverty, and regardless of the type of public school attended,” says Jacqueline Nowicki, who led the team of researchers at the GAO.

Nowicki and her team interviewed administrators, visited schools across the country, and used 2013-2014 data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes disciplinary actions in more than 95,000 schools across the country. Those numbers include suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.

Full story at npr.org