School districts regularly deploy a new campus or system-wide initiative designed to improve student outcomes, but those districts often struggle to fully realize the potential of that change. Huge amounts of resources—money, people, and time—are invested in initiatives with little, if any, attention paid to how the work will get done or how it aligns with other efforts underway. Research-based initiatives should drive what happens in classrooms and schools. However, too often we see that new education initiatives fade away mid-year or have mixed results even when the design and substance are sound. Commonly the “what”—the new program or initiative—is where leaders solely put their focus. Often missing is the “how” – the disciplined process to take that new idea from concept to reality. Without this, results are sporadic and success is difficult to achieve.
As part of New Jersey’s Computer Science for All initiative, which was designed to broaden rigorous computer science courses offered to students, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday a computer science for All State Plan, including $2 million in state grants, to help high schools establish computer science programs. “Expanding and improving computer science programs in our public schools will help provide our students with the critical thinking skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy,” said Murphy. “Computers and technology are integral to our society and workforce, and students must be given the opportunity to learn and master these foundational skills.”
Mississippi and the District of Columbia, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. The Magnolia State and the nation’s capital were the only jurisdictions to see significant improvements in both math and reading in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the results of which became public last Wednesday. (The District of Columbia, which celebrated the Nationals’ World Series win on the same day, is on a roll.) Scores for the nation as a whole dropped significantly in fourth and eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. Only fourth-grade math scores ticked upward. State leaders may well look to Mississippi and the district for insights. Both stand out for the sheer size and staying power of their gains.
News that the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the arts would fall victim to budget constraints raised a collective groan from the nation’s arts advocates earlier this year. Many wondered where else they could find national information on U.S. students’ engagement and performance in music and visual arts. A partial answer to that question just came from an unexpected place: NAEP’s 2019 math assessment. The math assessment can’t tell us much about how students performed in the arts, but it did ask students the following question: Are you taking an art course this school year (for example, drawing, painting, or studio art)?
The SAT will become New Mexico’s official statewide standardized test for high school juniors this spring, a state official said Friday. All juniors will be required to take the SAT—an exam administered by the non-profit organization College Board. Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said the exam is aligned with the state’s academic standards, and all New Mexico colleges and universities accept it. “In administering the SAT, we are paying for students’ college entrance exams for the first time ever, effectively removing one major barrier to college entrance for thousands of New Mexico students,” Stewart said in a statement. The move came after a task force convened by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said any new assessment should have meaning beyond high school.
Intention-setting—a powerful mindfulness practice rooted in a rich contemplative history—is becoming a popular tool for supporting the personal and professional development of adults. Can it be used in the classroom in a way that supports student learning? Intention-setting, it’s important to note, is different from goal-setting. Goals are clear targets that we strive to hit. For example, a student may articulate the goal: “By the end of class, I will have brainstormed several possible designs and decided which one I’m going to build based on the given criteria.” Intentions are guiding principles that can help us, as individuals, connect our present actions to our personal values. They focus on who we are and who we could be in this moment.
In Poor, Rural Illinois School Districts, Teacher Raises and Evidence-Based Funding are “A Balancing Act”
Governor JB Pritzker in August signed a bill that will ensure all full-time teachers in Illinois make at least $40,000 a year by 2023. The raise, which takes effect gradually, will directly affect only a small portion of the state’s workforce. An analysis by the Illinois Education Association, a statewide teachers’ union, found fewer than 8,000 of the state’s 130,000 teachers make less than $40,000. But the law will make a significant impact in many small, rural Southern Illinois districts, where schools receive less property tax money per student and payout lower wages than in wealthier areas of the state. The Egyptian ($32,180), De Soto ($37,490) Cairo ($31,664), Shawnee ($33,274), Dongola ($33,107), Century ($35,655), Meridian ($35,140), Galatia ($37,445), Lick Creek ($33,361), Gallatin County ($35,797) and Hardin County ($35,361) school districts, plus Consolidated School District 204 in Pinckneyville ($36,250), all offered entry salaries well below the 2023 benchmark, as of 2018-2019, according to Illinois State Board of Education data. Conversations with the region’s superintendents indicate some schools pay even less than the ISBE data reflects, widening the gap that must be made up in the coming years.
Some districts spend far more per student at some schools and less at others, but parents can now find how just how big the difference is after per-pupil spending by school was added to the latest Illinois Report Card. In addition to the district-level data, the Illinois State Board of Education now includes how much is spent per student in each school using each school’s fiscal year 2018 financial reports. “Exploring this new level of financial data and context can deepen our understanding of equity in Illinois,” Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Carmen Ayala said. Some districts had per-pupil spending differences between schools that were in the thousands. Bloomington School District 87, for instance, spent $10,824 per pupil at Oakland Elementary school, but spent more than $16,000 per student at Bent Elementary School, which has similar characteristics.