Newport News Becomes Largest Virginia School District to Make All Meals Free For 2019-20 

No students in Newport News Public Schools will have to worry about lunch money when they come back from summer break. Last week, the school division received approval from the Virginia Department of Education to use a federal program that reimburses meals at schools with a certain proportion of students from low-income families. NNPS executive director of child nutrition services Cathy Alexander presented the news to the school board Tuesday evening. It’ll be the first division in Hampton Roads and the largest in the state to make both breakfast and lunch free for all students.

Cardona Urges Superintendents to Avoid ‘Normalization of Failure’ 

Miguel Cardona, the state’s new education chief, charged the state’s superintendents to challenge “the normalization of failure” to ensure that all students have a chance to succeed. “For the past 20 plus years, I have devoted myself to being a public school educator, yet I am part of a system that produces results that are still predictable by zip code and shades of skin,” Cardona said at the annual state back-to-school meeting Wednesday for state superintendents. “We must do better.” While poverty is a major factor, it’s not the only one, Cardona said, noting that “more affluent black kids perform worse than poorer white kids” and more affluent Latino children perform similarly to poorer white kids in academic work. (CT Mirror)

‘Nobody Learns It in a Day’: Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools 

There’s never been a clearer scientific picture of the ways damaging experiences and intense, chronic stress can hurt a child’s ability to learn in school. But for many schools, the picture of what trauma-sensitive schooling looks like in practice is still developing. “We’re in an all-fired hurry because there’s this ‘trauma’ thing and we have to help our kids,” said Melissa Sadin, the director of the Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools Initiative, a national group that trains school and district staff. “Yes, but you have to do it correctly, and nobody learns it in a day.” Cognitive and neuroscience studies show traumatic stress interferes with memory and attention, good health, and emotional stability. Students who experience traumatic stress perform worse academically and cognitively, and their teachers reported worse behavior in the classroom, according to a 2016 meta-analysis.

Report: More States Setting Higher ‘Proficiency’ Standards on Assessments 

The gap is narrowing between what states consider proficiency in math and reading — and the standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), according to a new “mapping” study released Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Comparing the 2017 NAEP results for 4th- and 8th-grade reading and math to state assessments for the 2016–17 school year, the report shows that since 2007, the difference between state cut scores for proficiency and the “NAEP equivalent” has grown smaller and is sometimes almost half of what it was. In all but 8th-grade math, the gap is also smaller than it was in 2015.

Vermont and New Hampshire Officials Ponder 1 School District

Education officials are considering the creation of an interstate school district that would serve high school-aged students in a section of northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire. The Caledonian-Record reports top education officials from the two states met last week with interested residents in Canaan, where Vermont and New Hampshire abut Quebec, to discuss the issue. School districts in both states face challenges of declining enrollment, tax pressures, a need to bolster programs with higher student ratios, and building needs. (Associated Press via WCAX)

Survey Shows Pay Raises Haven’t Solved Oklahoma’s Teacher Shortage

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has improved, but a shortage crisis is still crippling schools, a state survey has shown. An annual teacher shortage survey from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association found school districts are experiencing more teacher vacancies than last year. Surveyed districts reported 596 vacancies, up from 494 in 2018, according to the survey released Tuesday. Deputy Superintendent Jason Brown, of Oklahoma City Public Schools, agreed the teacher shortage is far from over. (The Oklahoman)

 Illinois to Invest $420M in Broadband for Rural Telehealth, Education 

The state of Illinois is investing $420 million in broadband infrastructure to bring telehealth, education, and economic development to rural areas, Governor JB Pritzker announced August 15. The initiative, called Connect Illinois, will centralize state agency resources, collaborate with private-sector experts and state legislators, and break down government silos to expand broadband access across the state. In the area of education, the state plans to on a path to increased broadband access for K-12 schools throughout Illinois to ensure students have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.

 High School Students Earning College Credit Up 51 Percent 

More than 8,000 high school students in the past school year earned college credit through exams that measure college skills, up from 5,346 last year, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday morning. The credits were achieved through the College Level Examination Program, or CLEP. It allows students to demonstrate their mastery of college-level materials in introductory courses. “Not only are more students accessing opportunities for post-secondary success but they are achieving credits toward their college degrees before even graduating high school,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement. (The Advocate)

These Free New York Summer Schools for English Learners are in Demand 

Students can lose their grasp of a new language over the summer because they might only be speaking it in a limited capacity, if at all, educators say. There’s not a lot of research around summer learning loss among English language learners, but one 2012 study found that students from non-English speaking homes experienced a bigger loss of English vocabulary while school was out compared to students from homes where English is spoken. Even as the city has added new programs, the demand continues to grow. Compared to last year, about 1,000 additional students took part this summer as the city added options for current first-graders, an education department spokeswoman said. Still, some school leaders who tout the program’s benefits would like to see the program expanded further in years to come. (Chalkbeat)

School Mental Health Training for Teachers Leaves Room for Improvement 

As youth struggle with mental health issues at increasing rates, their teachers are struggling to help them. One recent study found that, while 93 percent of teachers are concerned about student mental health needs, 85 percent expressed the need for further mental health training. Schools must ensure that teachers are prepared to identify and support students by building their capacity to effectively address student mental health. Mental health is a topic not commonly covered in current teacher trainings. These trainings tend to address classroom management skills and a variety of teacher competencies, with little or no focus on student mental health. However, some schools are incorporating effective teacher training on student mental health within in-service trainings. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), one of the most commonly used training programs of this kind, has a growing evidence base demonstrating increases in teachers’ knowledge and ability to address student mental health needs. Additionally, teachers report a more positive sense of their personal mental health after participating in an MHFA training.

The Advantages of a Dedicated State School Safety Center 

As one of the few states in the country with an established state School Safety Resource Center, Colorado schools have a partner in helping them meet required safety legislation. Established in 2008, the center serves all schools in Colorado, from preschool through higher education, with the focus of the work on the 145 rural districts of the 178 school districts in the state. The center is instituted in the Colorado Department of Public Safety and has no compliance authority. Districts can freely request help in any of the five missions of preparedness as outlined by the U.S. Department of Education: prevention, mitigation, protection, response and recovery. The center services schools in a variety of ways. It conducts regional trainings across the state on everything from emergency operations planning, tabletop exercises and threat assessment training to suicide, substance abuse and child abuse prevention and restorative practices.

New National Center Promotes Mental Health in Rural Schools 

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school. Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues. “Peer relationship issues, drama, rumors,” are common, Rawlings says. “But I do also see a number of students that struggle with internalizing problems; could be anxiety, depression that sort of thing.” Rawlings works to make sure the students know he’s there. And he tries to leave time in his schedule for one-on-one or small group meetings. Rawlings has a personal stake in his work as well, having struggled with mental health issues as a teen growing up in a rural area. (WFYI)

NC Students Could Be Taking Fewer Standardized Tests Soon 

North Carolina legislators have reached a compromise on doing away with more standardized testing in public schools. The measure passed in both the House and Senate Monday night, and will now head to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk. The legislation would end more than 20 end-of-course exams covering mostly high school subjects next school year. State law currently doesn’t require these “North Carolina Final Exams,” which had been used to comply with previous federal mandates. The bill directs school districts to review local testing requirements periodically and reduce them if they exceed the statewide average. And local boards can’t require students to complete graduation projects unless they agree to reimburse disadvantaged students up to $75 of project expenses. (Associated Press via WFMY)

Arizona Schools to Get $20 Million For Counselors, Social Workers and Resource Officers 

The Arizona State Board of Education approved a plan Monday morning that would allocate additional funding for counselors, social workers and police officers in Arizona schools. “I think this was the result of a lot of advocacy from the community and associations working with the Governor’s Office, the Department of Education and many others who worked on this for months,” said Callie Kozlak, an associate superintendent with the Arizona Department of Education. Christa Mussi, a school counselor at Dobson High School in Mesa, said consistency is key in making sure students don’t fall through the cracks. “Every senior we work to see within two weeks of school, and again we have a system so that nobody gets missed,” says Mussi. (ABC15)