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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.

Georgia, North Carolina Join ESSA Assessment Pilot  Georgia and North Carolina will join Louisiana and New Hampshire as part of a U.S. Department of Education (ED) pilot program that allows states to use different assessment methods as an alternative to traditional standardized tests, ED announced Wednesday. Part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) lifts some federal requirements related to testing as long as the model chosen is reliable and can produce a summative score or proficiency level. The results also have to be comparable across districts in a state.

Florida Public Schools Must Now Teach at least 5 hours of Mental Health Classes  Public schools will be required to teach students at least five hours of mental health instruction beginning in sixth grade, under a mandate approved by the state Board of Education Wednesday and hailed by Florida’s top educator as a “life saver.” Education officials proposed the change to the statewide school curriculum in June, following discussions with First Lady Casey DeSantis, who has made the mental health issue one of her top priorities. The new requirement will require students to take courses aimed at helping them to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness, find resources if they are battling with depression or other issues and teach them how to help peers who are struggling with a mental health disorder. (Pensacola News Journal, July 17)

Oregon Students Can Now Take ‘Mental Health Days’ Home From School  Oregon will allow students to take “mental health days” just as they would sick days, expanding the reasons for excused school absences to include mental or behavioral health under a new law that experts say is one of the first of its kind in the U.S. But don’t call it coddling. The students behind the measure say it’s meant to change the stigma around mental health in a state that has some of the United States’ highest suicide rates. Mental health experts say it is one of the first state laws to explicitly instruct schools to treat mental health and physical health equally, and it comes at a time educators are increasingly considering the emotional health of students. Utah passed a similar law last year. (TIME, July 21)

Silent Alarms At Schools May Soon Be Required By Federal Law  The U.S. House of Representatives is weighing the bipartisan School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019, which would require that all public schools install at least one silent panic alarm that would inform the closest law enforcement agency of an impending emergency situation, reports. The state of New Jersey passed a similar law, called Alyssa’s Law, in February that requires all of the state’s 2,500 public schools to install at least one silent panic alarm.

The Changing Landscape of Homeschooling in the United States  Homeschoolers—and their motivations—are increasingly diverse. A number of innovations, such as online schools, micro schools, co-ops, and support centers, are enabling this diversity. Though frequently left out of the conversation about education, the homeschooling movement has much to teach us about creating more customized and effective school systems. Homeschool families are hyper-autonomous units with tremendous freedom to create curriculum, redesign typical learning pathways, and build innovative partnerships. Homeschooling is not a monolith and it is not static; families are taking several innovative approaches to redesigning education—forming partnerships with districts, organizing themselves into collaboratives, and finding ways to promote equity. Homeschooling has been legal in every state since the 1990s. While only 3 percent of K–12 students in the United States are homeschooled, this percentage has grown since 1999 and shows signs of continuing to increase. Homeschooling impacts the lives of millions of children and yet is understudied compared to other sectors of U.S. education. This brief describes the state of homeschooling in 2019. It explores the changing demographics of homeschoolers, provides an overview of new forms of homeschooling, and outlines the variety of state policies that govern homeschooling.

Positive Outliers: Understanding Extraordinary School Districts  The Learning Policy Institute Blog sat down with Anne Podolsky, the lead author of California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds, to explore the key findings of this groundbreaking study and to discuss the implications for local and state policymaking. The new report, California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds, provides insight into the California districts that are most successful at advancing the academic achievement of African American, Latino/a, and White students, as measured by standardized tests.

Practitioner Perspectives on Equity in Career and Technical Education  In the spring of 2019, MDRC invited practitioners from innovative career and technical education (CTE) programs to discuss questions of equity. MDRC wanted to bring these people together so that they could share their knowledge about the barriers they must overcome to achieve their equity goals and their approaches to those barriers. While many of these programs serve different populations and have different aims, the conversation revealed that they share challenges. Topics of common concern included how to define “equity” and how to increase equity in both access and outcomes. This policy brief summarizes the most common equity challenges that were raised in the discussion, along with ideas that emerged for how to address them. While the bulk of the brief comes directly from this conversation, several examples also come from MDRC’s other research activities. The brief begins with a short overview of how the group defined equity and the main causes of inequity. It continues with discussions of inequity in access and outcomes, covering the challenges identified in both areas and some proposed solutions. It concludes with a discussion of how research can help practitioners address equity, and how policymakers can support equitable delivery and outcomes. (MDRC)

This Supreme Court Case Made School District Lines A Tool For Segregation  Roughly 9 million children—nearly 1 in 5 public school students in the U.S.—attend schools that are racially isolated and receive far less money than schools just a few miles away. That’s according to a sweeping new review of the nation’s most divisive school district borders from EdBuild, a nonprofit that investigates school funding inequities. “Inequality is endemic” in America’s public schools, the report says, identifying nearly 1,000 school district borders where schools on one side receive at least 10% less money per student than schools on the other side and where the racial makeup of the two sides’ students varies by 25 percentage points or more. It is the story of segregation, in 2019. (NPR, July 25)

New Report Shows 4 Ways States Can Innovate and Improve Their Exams—Even Without Joining ESSA Pilot Program  Last week, the U.S. Department of Education approved proposals from Georgia and North Carolina to pilot innovative models of student testing. When Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) authorized its special program for innovative assessments, many states expressed excitement and interest. But more than a year and a half after the Department of Education started accepting applications, Georgia and North Carolina are only the third and fourth states to take advantage of the program. Does that mean that innovative assessments are dead in the water? No. Exactly the opposite. Louisiana, New Hampshire, Georgia and North Carolina are just one part of a larger group innovating behind the scenes, building innovative assessment systems that look beyond end-of-year reading and math tests and disrupting stereotypes about standardized tests. States leading the field know that cutting tests indiscriminately due to political backlash leaves students with exams that are less useful and of lower quality, teachers without good information about their students and the public with less reliable and transparent information about how historically underserved students are faring in school.

Here’s How To Put Coding And Robotics Programs In K-8 Classrooms  Coding and robotics programs in classrooms reflect how integral technology is in our lives. Educators like Angie Kalthoff, a technology integrationist in St. Cloud, MN, and Ann Bartel, an instructional technology specialist in Chilton, WI, teach K-8 students about technology through coding and computer science programs that incorporate the 4Cs of learning: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. In a recent edWebinar, Kalthoff and Bartel explain that they want to coach students and not just tell them what button to push or the correct sequences to move a robot across a mat. By being challenged to take ownership of their learning through design thinking, students grow to understand that it is okay not to get the right answer the first time and that failing is part of the learning process.

Science Gets Hands On In Summer Stem Programs, But Funding Challenges Remain Fifty years after the first moon landing, students in California this summer are getting a taste of space life. At Zero Robotics, middle school students gather in teams across San Jose for five weeks to design a code that will control a small satellite. The best code is then uploaded to the International Space Station where live astronauts judge a competition between the satellites programmed by students from around the country. Zero Robotics is a nationwide summer program where students can participate in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities, like writing code for satellite races in space.

To Succeed In America’s K-12 Pipeline, It’s Better To Be Born Rich Than Smart The prospects for disadvantaged youth in the American education pipeline are more dire than ever. In a fair world, people’s successes would reflect their talent and hard work. But that’s hardly the case. Instead, a child’s likelihood of becoming a college graduate and achieving early career success depends more on his or her family’s bank account and social status than on talent. In short, in America, it’s better to be born rich than smart. Our latest research on the K–12 pipeline revealed a striking finding—the most talented young people from the least affluent families don’t do as well in college and careers as the least talented young people from the most affluent families. Systemic inequality affecting Black and Latino youth adds another dimension to economic class disparities.