ONE WAS ON THE ROOF OF a Habitat for Humanity house in California when it occurred to her. Another was in a state senator’s office in Oklahoma City. Still another was at an education conference in Minneapolis when she began to consider it.
It’s a decision hundreds of educators across the country have made this year: To change the conditions in their classrooms, they would have to run for office themselves. Some 550 educators will be on election ballots this fall, according to the National Education Association, running for everything from local school board to governor.
Their numbers are particularly pronounced in states where teachers took to the streets and statehouses in the spring, places like Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia. At least 20 educators filed to run for Congress this cycle, and the hundreds of educators running for statehouse positions came from both political parties from Maine to Alaska. Though the exact issues varied – compensation, the upward creep in class sizes, the trickling pipeline of qualified educators – they pointed to a common theme of neglect in state K-12 education budgets.
That activism led to a spike in educators filing their election paperwork, says Carrie Pugh, the national political director for the National Education Association, which has compiled a database of the educator-candidates.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today recognized 349 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2018. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
“I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to the honorees. “We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”
The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.
Despite all the careful planning and prep, the school year has the capacity to quickly get stressful. As soon as I sense students are feeling overwhelmed, I try to find little techniques to help lighten the mood and detox any unnecessary stress from building up. When things start to feel like too much, I pull out one of my favorite techniques – The Dot Test – which I was fortunate enough to experience in graduate school. When I can pull it off, it’s one of my favorite lessons of the year.
The Story of the Dot Test
Upon entering the classroom, a lecturer greeted us and asked us to look up on the board and tell us what we saw. The board was seemingly empty. Everyone started looking at each other, all of us aware that we must be missing something. Finally, someone walked up to the board and said, “All I see is this small dot, is this what you meant?”
The lecturer said, “Yes that’s what I was hoping you’d find – the dot.” We were a bit confused, so he explained. “You see, I know you are all in the middle of a stressful year, but I wanted to tell you to enjoy it, because as stressful as the tests seem and as daunting as the homework might feel, throughout the grand scheme of your life you won’t remember any of it — it will be as significant as this small dot on this vast board. When you look back on this year, what you will remember are the friends you’ve made, the experiences you’ve had, and how your teachers made you feel. Don’t waste too much time being stressed out about the exams, because in the end, these tests won’t matter much in your life. They will become small dots. No matter what happens, you will all be okay and do great things.”
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.”
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.
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.
Have you ever paid your kid for good grades? Have you driven to school to drop off an assignment that they forgot? Have you done a college student’s laundry? What about coming along to Junior’s first job interview?
These examples are drawn from two bestselling books — How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims and The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. Both are by women writing from their experiences as parents and as educators. Lahey is a teacher and a writer for The New York Times and The Atlantic, currently at work on a new book about teens and addiction. Lythcott-Haims was the longtime freshman dean at Stanford; in 2017 she published the memoir Real American and is working on a sequel to How to Raise an Adult about “how to be an adult.”
The books make strikingly similar claims about today’s youth and their parents: Parents are “too worried about [their children’s] future achievements to allow [them] to work through the obstacles in their path” (Lahey) and “students who seemed increasingly reliant on their parents in ways that felt, simply, off,” (Lythcott-Haims).
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.
Some high school students think of applying to colleges as a full-time job. There are essays and tests, loads of financial documents to assemble and calculations to make. After all that, of course, comes a big decision — one of the biggest of their young lives.
For top students who come from low-income families, the challenge is particularly difficult.
Research shows that 1 in 4 juggle all of that — the writing, the studying, the researching and applying — completely on their own. One approach to make this whole process easier? Pair students up with someone who can help, a mentor or adviser, virtually.
THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS receiving special education in public schools is rising, with about 13 percent of all students receiving such instruction, according to a recent study.
A Department of Education report, titled the Condition of Education 2018, states the number of students aged 3 to 21 receiving special education services increased from 6.6 million to 6.7 million from the 2014-2015 school year to the 2015-2016 school year. Among those, 34 percent had specific learning disabilities, of which 20 percent had speech or language impairments and 14 percent had other health impairments.
Joel McFarland, lead author of the report, says despite a slight increase from the previous year, 13 percent is still within the range of special education representation seen in previous years.