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K-12 education resources

The following resources focus on the educational climate and betterment of those serving the K–12 educational community.

Illinois governor signs order to protect transgender students Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker used the occasion of World Pride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots to advocate for transgender kids Sunday. Pritzker signed an executive order aimed at ensuring schools have what they need to be “affirming and inclusive for transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming students,” said a statement from his office. “This executive order is one more step toward securing Illinois’ place as a leader in equality and hope,” Pritzker said. “Under this executive order, ignorance is no longer an excuse for bigotry.”

Rural schools need career counselors, too Nearly a quarter of the U.S student population attends schools in rural areas. Rural students are more likely to graduate from high school than their urban counterparts. However, their lower college enrollment and graduation rates suggest that many of these high school graduates are not necessarily ready for higher education. Increasing access to career counselors for rural students could play a vital role in preparing these students for their transition from school to college and to the workforce. A myriad of factors contributes to the lack of readiness for college among rural students. Rural schools operate under small budgets, which can prevent them from attracting and retaining qualified teachers and offering advanced coursework to students. Rural students have fewer opportunities than urban students for career exploration activities that are generally viewed as a best practice for career readiness. The isolated geographical locations of their communities can limit rural students’ ability to participate in activities that would expose them to different occupations (e.g., field trips to various work settings).

Test Review: ISBE Wants Exams Aligned The Illinois State Board of Education has decided to review the slate of standardized tests students take, to try to make sure the exams align with each other. Currently, kindergarteners are evaluated by one test, then elementary students with another, and high school juniors with a third. All those tests measure different concepts, making it difficult to see where the curriculum needs to be improved. Amanda Elliott, legislative affairs director with the state board, says the current system causes many districts to implement additional tests.

Illinois Governor Grants Reprieve of State’s Popular Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, but Political Fight Puts Dent in Donations Even as Applications Surge One of the country’s largest tax-credit scholarship programs that helps low-income students attend a private school in Illinois survived the state’s budget negotiations last month despite calls for its early demise. But its lifeline comes as the program faces a massive funding shortfall fueled by months of uncertainty about its political fate. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker put the program, Invest in Kids, on precarious footing in February when he unveiled his budget plan, proposing an early phaseout of the initiative that would cut donation acceptances by half each year for the next three years. That move — which came after he spent months campaigning against Invest in Kids — appears to have scared away donors, leaving the program millions of dollars behind last year’s pace of fundraising even as thousands of more students have applied for the program.

Innovative Idaho School Ahead of the Pack in Rethinking High School Transcripts — and At Least Some Colleges Are Glad When Elise Malterre decided to attend One Stone, a break-the-mold, tuition-free independent high school in downtown Boise, she and her mother had one long-term worry nibbling at the back of their minds: What about college admissions? The school, which serves 105 students in grades 10-12, doesn’t evaluate them in any traditional way. No tests. No grades. Instead, it uses a detailed, arguably more meaningful instrument called a growth transcript, which measures students’ growth as they work toward becoming fully developed human beings. It follows their academic progress, to be sure, but also their growth in mindset, creativity, empathy and skills ranging from goal-setting to critical thinking.

Gaping Holes in How States Track K-12 Spending Where, exactly, do those billions of dollars taxpayers annually spend for schools go? In most states, policymakers really don’t know. That’s because state education departments don’t have the technology to track the tens of thousands of transactions that district officials, using a combination of federal, state, and local dollars, make throughout the school year. So instead, the departments give lawmakers a receipt that includes a summation of broad spending categories, a breakout of average salaries, and maybe a mention of whether spending is up or down.

Incorporating social-emotional learning (SEL) into everyday academic instruction: How do I do it? One approach to teaching social-emotional skills in the classroom is to integrate SEL into everyday academic instruction. Rather than teach social-emotional skills independently of academic skills, many teachers and administrators are trying to implement SEL throughout the school day. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) offer some great information on how to do this.

Students in Larger Schools Bullied Less Students in larger schools reported being bullied less than those in smaller schools, according to the NCES report. About 26 percent of students in exceptionally small schools – those with fewer than 300 students – reported being bullied compared to 12.3 percent of students in large schools of 2,000 or more. Students in a class of fewer than 13 students per teacher actually experienced more bullying than their peers in larger classes. The report’s data is drawn from the 2017 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Mistreatment of students differed by gender, with 23.8 percent of female students reporting bullying compared to 16.7 percent of their male peers. Midwestern students reported the highest incidence of bullying at 23.5 percent, compared to Northeastern students, who were on the low end with 18 percent reporting being bullied.

States Are Ratcheting Up Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders Changes in education policy often emanate from the federal government. But one policy that has spread across the country came not from Washington, D.C., but from Florida. “Mandatory retention” requires that third-graders who do not show sufficient proficiency in reading repeat the grade. It was part of a broader packet of reforms proposed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002. Now 19 states have adopted the policy, in part because Bush has pushed hard for it. Not all children who perform poorly on reading tests are retained: Generally, students with special needs and kids who have been in the country less than two years are exempted. And studies have shown that a child’s early literacy skills can have long-term implications. One out of six students who are not reading proficiently by fourth grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, don’t graduate from high school on time. That rate is four times greater than that of proficient readers. (NPR, July 13)

The Other Branch: Exploring Gary B. v. Snyder Literacy is fundamental to a host of things; without the ability to read and write, it’s arguably difficult to do much else. But is literacy — or more specifically, access to education and instruction that develops literacy — a fundamental right? That’s the question at the heart of Gary B. v. Snyder. The federal case argues, on behalf of students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), that certain conditions in the school district — such as a “lack of books, classrooms without teachers, insufficient desks, buildings plagued by vermin, unsafe facilities and extreme temperatures” — have denied students the opportunity to attain literacy.

Our Chartering Past Informs — And Shapes — Our Future This guest post comes from former Minnesota state Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge, who is the author of Minnesota’s 1991 first-in-nation charter school law and the award-winning book, Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story. Views expressed in guest posts are those of the author. “When my charter school bill finally passed the Minnesota legislature in May 1991, I thought the bill was so compromised that a charter school would never happen. But what I didn’t realize is that . . .”

Busing And Blaine: The Coming Clash In Education Towards the end of last week, there was big news about two basic, conflicting methods of delivering education, news that could herald the arrival of a crucial, clarifying debate about American education: Should families or government decide where children are educated? It is a debate, as long as it is conducted with magnanimity, that all should welcome, focusing on basic questions of justice for past wrongs, and how education in a free country should work. Both of the major stories revolve around policies intimately connected to discrimination in American education. The first concerns “busing,” a term that captures policies, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, that assigned students, based on race, to schools outside of largely homogeneous neighborhoods to help overcome centuries of oppression and segregation of African Americans. The issue, after lying dormant for decades, was thrust into national headlines by last Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate. Sparking it was a contentious exchange between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris over Biden’s opposition to federal busing proposals in the 1970s.

The State of Assessment: A Look Forward on Innovation in State Testing Systems In recent years, political and public pushback to state tests has led many states to retreat from investing in and innovating their assessment systems. This trend put some states at risk of backsliding toward lower-quality assessments that would not serve students or teachers well. But that isn’t the whole story. In this brief, we identify states actively working to improve their assessments and shift their role beyond end-of-year math and reading tests. We also identify trailblazing states that are making big, public reforms around innovation in assessment. These include states applying to federal innovative assessment pilot programs and committing significant resources to new assessment ideas and methods. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers states the opportunity to take the lead in areas of assessment innovation and systemic improvement that have not been at the forefront of public conversation. Many of these opportunities do not require special federal waivers or pilot program permission. Investing in well-rounded, high-quality state assessment systems can benefit students and align with parallel state efforts around teaching and learning.

Teachers Push for Books with More Diversity, Fewer Stereotypes For decades, children’s books in school libraries and classrooms have overwhelmingly featured white faces. And as the U.S. school-age population grows more diverse, students of color are less likely than white students to see books with characters that look like them or share their cultural background. Some educators and children’s book authors are trying to change that.

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