Our recent 50-State Comparison on K-12 Funding looks at states’ general funding mechanisms and the additional funding systems they employ for specific student and/or school characteristics. When allocating funding, states account for the varying factors that influence the cost of funding education for all students. One of these factors concerns the resources needed to educate students from low-income households. Additionally, research shows a connection between providing additional funding for such students and their academic performance.
Educators are increasingly encouraged to update the learning experiences in their classrooms. This includes more attention to STEM learning, such as promoting the integration of technology and science instruction into everyday classroom experiences, and implementing pedagogical frameworks like open-ended inquiry learning and problem-based learning that mirror the work real professionals engage in—frameworks that guide students to “play the whole game at the junior level.” These considerations are important for guiding students to be ready to take on a highly scientific and technological world. Merely implementing more open-ended science instruction or using applications on laptops or iPads doesn’t necessarily improve student learning, though. It’s how we design and use technology in schools that can truly improve students’ learning outcomes.
To prepare students to distinguish between the cascade of true and false narratives—many of which make questionable claims to truth based in pseudoscience or bad math—some teachers focus on integrating mathematical, statistical, and scientific concepts with other subjects. By weaving together civics or social studies and math, students get used to working through complex arguments using the finer points of these disciplines. Alison Strole, a middle-school math teacher in Fishers, Ind., asks her students to analyze two decades worth of exit-poll results from U.S. elections, collected from a variety of sources, including CNN’s 2016 exit polls here or 270ToWin.com state-by-state historical election results here.
The importance of developing a growth mindset isn’t exactly new, yet many of us still struggle with the notion that failure is a vital—or even necessary—precursor to success. In classrooms where success is synonymous with acing tests, the idea that trial and error are critical parts of the learning process can feel foreign to students. “Students with a fixed mindset may feel that they’re either good at a subject or bad at it with no room for growth. They may feel anxious about failure because they see it as a negative statement on their basic knowledge in a subject or class,” writes Michael Bycraft for EdSurge. “Students who have been at schools that encourage experimentation and the process of learning (or growth mindset) are not as discouraged by failure, as they see their work can always be improved, and learning comes from failure.”
Contrary to popular belief, math is more than just numbers, algebraic formulas, and ancient algorithms. It can serve as a vehicle to help our students make sense of the world in which we live, but current events and real-world issues have generally been integrated only into subjects such as English, science, and social studies—math has been considered its own little island. After years of searching for lesson plans and resources that would help me bridge the gap between math and real-world issues, I decided to create my own unit project to do that.
In assessing student work, one of the challenges that teachers face comes when students have created a product for a project. Ideally they’ve had a chance to share their work with each other because that has numerous benefits: It allows them to see how their peers interpreted the project content or questions differently, and to reflect on their own learning and their learning process, which can help them improve future projects and processes. Sharing students’ work more widely, with their families or with outside experts, for example, has benefits as well.
While reading aloud is typically an elementary school practice, a modified method can be useful for comprehension and engagement in older students as well. In EdWeek’s “Bringing the Joy of Read-Alouds to Middle School Students,” Christina Torres, an 8th grade English teacher at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, describes how she has used a “read-along” strategy with her students for six years. In a read-along, Torres reads while “all students follow along with their own copy of the text,” she writes. “I stop periodically to explain vocabulary, model note-taking in the margins, or engage in class discussion.”
It is unsurprising that students who face academic challenges may feel overwhelmed in world language classrooms, which require all learners to leave their comfort zones and embrace something new. Those who grapple with processing issues or memory weaknesses require additional assistance in order to successfully acquire a new language. However, this additional assistance should not mean resorting to English—it is possible to maintain the target language while meeting all students’ needs.
What should states and districts working on school improvement keep in mind about successful turnaround efforts? AIR’s 2016 school turnaround study focusing on School Redesign Grants (also known as Title I, 1003(g) School Improvement Grants) in Massachusetts gives us some answers. The state competitively awarded these grants to low-performing schools (identified through school improvement plans and interviews) that demonstrated a readiness to improve student performance. For state accountability purposes, Massachusetts schools were classified into five levels, based at the time on student outcomes, with level one being the highest performing and level five the lowest. Level five schools were assigned a state receiver and operated separate from the district, so level four schools were the lowest performing schools, still under the district’s purview—and became the subjects of AIR’s study.
The Rural Education Investment Act
Rural school districts and communities across the United States are currently facing a number of pressing issues, including lack of funding, outdated infrastructure, and a growing teacher shortage. Many rural school districts have a lack of a tax base due to adjacent federal land, such as military bases. According to a 2017 report by the School Superintendents Association, 53% of all public school districts in the United States are located in rural areas, and these students make up nearly one-fifth of America’s K-12 population. One of the ways to combat inadequate funding in rural areas and a worsening teacher shortage is by ensuring that rural America gets its fair share. Programs like the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant Program allow teachers to be placed in a full-time classroom apprenticeship while completing Masters-level coursework. However, only a handful of these TQP Grants reach rural areas that are desperate for more teachers.
The Rural Education Investment Act requires the Secretary of Education to determine the percent of K-12 students living in rural areas and ensures that percentage of TQP Grant dollars go to schools in rural areas.
Specifically, the bill:
- Defines the term ‘local educational agency located in rural area’ using eligibility requirements from the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP):
- Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) Program
- Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) Program
- Requires the Secretary of Education at the beginning of every year to determine the percentage of K-12 students served by ‘local educational agencies located in rural areas.”
- Ensures that percentage is at least the percentage of TQP Grant dollars that go to schools in rural areas.
For more information or to add your boss as a cosponsor, please contact Noah Yantis in Rep. Bost’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org