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Preparing Students for Life After Special Education? Here’s How Federal Dollars Can Help – On Special Education

New guidance from the U.S. Department of Education spells out how school systems and state agencies can coordinate to help students with disabilities prepare for life after high school.

A 16-page Q & A produced by the agency’s special education and postsecondary education offices outlines how schools can use the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and vocational rehabilitation funds to support dual-enrollment programs, create college and transition options for students with intellectual disabilities, and finance other initiatives designed to ease the transition between grades K-12 and postsecondary education and training.

In most cases, to use the federal funds, a student’s Individualized Educational Plan team must determine that the dual-enrollment courses or transition programs are necessary to provide a free appropriate public education. When federal IDEA and vocational rehabilitation funds can’t be used, the document explains that students apply for individual federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants and work-study opportunities, to pursue postsecondary and dual-enrollment options.

As part of the federal education department’s national back-to-school tour, Johnny Collett, the assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative services, recently visited a program for young students with intellectual developmental disabilities that allows students an opportunity to explore education and employment at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

“The department is committed to ensuring that students and youth with disabilities are held to high expectations and have the resources and supports needed to expand their learning opportunities and prepare them for success in postsecondary education or careers,” Collett said in a statement introducing the Q & A.

While high school graduation rates for students with disabilities are on the rise, life after graduation remains a concern. Students with disabilities are less likely to enroll in college or find employment after high school than their peers without disabilities. These students also are more likely than those without disabilities to enroll in vocational schools for postsecondary education and to earn less on the job.

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Students Face Uncertain Paths After Special Education

Experience is Key for Special Ed. Students Headed to the Workplace

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Should Schools Be Able to Detect Every Would-Be Shooter?

Students are comforted as they wait to be reunited with their parents following the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., that killed two and injured several others.

Students are comforted as they wait to be reunited with their parents following the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., that killed two and injured several others.

—AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

| Updated: November 15, 2019

Though many details remain in flux about the tragic shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., the most critical of all remained unanswered late Friday: What provoked the violence?

Two students were killed and three others wounded in the early morning shooting on Nov. 14 at the 2,400-student high school in the Los Angeles suburb. The shooter, who police say turned a .45-caliber handgun on himself after shooting five classmates within 16 seconds, died Friday night, authorities said.

The initial portrait of the 16-year-old assailant suggests that he showed few outward signs of distress. He was involved in Boy Scouts, had a girlfriend, worked attentively on group projects with other students, and was a member of the track club, according to local news reports.

In other words, unlike the great majority of school shooters, he does not appear to have given off many warning signs that school personnel could have acted on.

The implications of that are sobering. While there is never a foolproof way to prevent violence on campuses, many elements of the current school-safety debate—in Parkland, Fla., for instance—center on districts’ botched responses to students who may present clear signs of trouble.

But what can districts and schools do when the signs aren’t as obvious? How can they know what the holes or weak spots are in their mental health and counseling systems?

“It is relatively rare for kids who commit violent acts or kids who harm themselves for no one to have thought, ‘that kid is in trouble,’” said Kathleen Minke, the executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists. “In my experience, kids themselves are the ones who can most often recognize another kid in trouble, and that’s why it is so important to build trusting relationships between kids and adults at school, to build communication systems so that kids feel comfortable talking to an adult when they have a friend or an acquaintance who is in trouble.”

But most students—no matter how troubled—will never become violent, much less school shooters. “It can be very difficult; we have to thread a very fine line between demonizing students who have had adverse childhood experiences and defining them by those experiences and making sure that they have the support they need,” said Deborah Temkin, the senior director of education research at the Bethesda, Md.-based Child Trends.

“The vast majority of kids who have had adverse childhood experiences are not going to become school shooters, are not going to become violent, and we have to be careful not to demonize those with mental health issues or trauma for the sake of trying to prevent these things from happening,” Temkin said. “That said, I think if we make sure we are providing support for all students and trying to create those safe and supportive environments that make sure that every student feels connected to their school, we are much less likely to see these things happen.”

A Robust Safety and Climate Plan

In the William S. Hart Union High School District, home to Saugus High School, safety planning documents indicate a district that, at least on paper, had attempted to put safety and mental-health protocols into place.

It had instituted lockdown procedures, and most students interviewed on local broadcast media mentioned having practiced them. It has assembled a threat assessment team—a risk-management approach to school safety recommended by the U.S. Secret Service.

And as part of its complement of 80-plus school support personnel, it reported tapping specific counselors to “diffuse aggression, address isolation, and tend to mental health needs of our students and families,” according to its most recent accountability plan.

“It’s really nice that the district, at least on paper, is taking all aspects of student wellness seriously,” Temkin said. “We don’t know how it’s being implemented, and we don’t know whether those resources were fully available.”

Flowers and cards in front of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., in the aftermath of the shooting that killed two students and injured several others, including the alleged student gunman.

Flowers and cards in front of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., in the aftermath of the shooting that killed two students and injured several others, including the alleged student gunman.

—AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

A district can be doing all the right things, and a tragedy can still occur, she noted.

“It has to be stressed that just because you are implementing programs or strategies to address whole-child wellness, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have an incident happen,” she said. “I think that is often forgotten: You can do everything right, and still have a tragedy happen, which may be the case here. It just means that there were other risk factors involved that weren’t addressed.”

It seems likely that the assailant was likely experiencing a mental health crisis.

In a recent analysis of 41 incidents of school violence, the U.S. Secret Service found that every single attacker had at least one major “stressor” in their life.

For a majority of them, that included in their family life, an area law enforcement officers were still exploring late Friday. While much is still unknown about the 16-year-old assailant’s circumstances, his father had died two years ago. The Associated Press reported that, in 2015, his father was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery.

It was not clear how that allegation was resolved, or if it played any role in the student’s overall state of mental health or motive to shoot classmates and himself.

“We can’t presume that just because a child has had an adverse childhood experience that they are going to experience trauma from it,” Temkin underscored. “And that makes it difficult for us to say just because this student’s father died that he is experiencing some sort of adverse reaction to it. We don’t know.”

The experts also pointed out that mental health supports aren’t just vital as part of a prevention effort, but also when the unthinkable occurs.

“Those teams, when they are really integrated into the school community, they will be there long after the cameras have gone away… kids are still suffering, teachers are still suffering, for years after these events,” summed up Minke.

The fallout from the tragedy does seem poised to put a renewed focus on schools’ mental health systems, and how they stand to complement and strengthen safety programs. In most of the nation’s public schools, robust mental health supports are rare.

Here are some key facts about schools and student mental health that educators need to know.

Many students face mental-health challenges.

Student mental health issues have been on the rise, say experts, and schools have struggled to keep up with those needs. Here’s what we know about some of the mental health issues that students—teenagers in particular—are grappling with:

• Among adolescents, 32 percent have an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

• Among 12 to 17-year-olds, 12 percent say they have experienced one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

• Among 15- to 19-year-olds, suicide rates have increased by 76 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• For 10- to 14-year-olds, the suicide rate has nearly tripled over that same time period.
While suicide is still relatively rare among teenagers, it is the second leading cause of death for that age group after accidents. Homicides rank third.

Most states, including California, have fewer mental-health professionals than recommended.

States’ ratios of counselors, school psychologists, and social workers tend to fall far below professional recommendations, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Civil Liberties Union. (The data is based on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2015-16 civil rights data collection, the most recent available.) For example:

• The National Association of School Counselors recommends one counselor for every 250 students. The national ratio is 1 to 444; California’s is 1 to 682.

• The National Association of School Psychologists recommends one school psychologist for every 500 to 700 students. The national ratio is 1 to 1,382; California’s is 1 to 998.

• The School Social Work Association of America recommends one social worker for every 250 students. The national ratio is 1 to 2,106; California’s is 1 to 6,132.
But the shortage of resources for children’s mental health isn’t limited to schools, it’s a communitywide problem, said Minke.

“Children are woefully underserved in our mental health system,” she said. “Typically, when they do receive them it’s those that are available to them in schools.”

About 20 percent of students face significant trauma, but “trauma sensitive schooling” is still in its infancy.

Roughly a fifth of students face two or more adverse child experiences, or ACEs, according to a recent federal survey. This can include abuse, divorce, the death of a parent, and multiple other factors, and they are linked to longer-term problems in health, education, and socialization.

Prompted by federal guidelines, a spate of natural disasters, and better understanding of the effects of toxic stress, schools are trying to institute trauma-informed practices. But few comprehensive approaches have been tried or evaluated rigorously for evidence of their effectiveness.

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Calculating the Actual Cost of College

When many people see the college price tag, they believe it’s financially out of reach. But Wellesley College Professor Phillip Levine, who studies college affordability, says that people often don’t realize there’s a difference between the price of college and the true amount a family might actually pay. Through the development of MyinTuition.org — an online tool that helps families uncover the actual cost — he hopes more students will achieve their college dreams.


Phillip LevineJill Anderson: I’m Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast. Phillip Levine knows there’s sticker shock when we see the price tag of college. He’s an economist at Wellesley College, he studies college affordability and how it impacts where and whether students choose to go. To better help students and their families make an informed decision about college, he created My Intuition, an online calculator that helps project the actual cost of college after financial aid.

How much do sticker prices really matter when it comes to applying for college?

Phillip Levine: The sticker price of college is a useful number for a very small fraction of the population. Now, at a school like Harvard or something, I don’t know what the sticker price is at Harvard at the moment, but it’s in the vicinity of $70,000. And this is true of many private colleges in the United States. You’ve got to be making $250,000 or so a year before that’s actually the amount that you’ll face, that that’s the price you’ll have to pay. Pretty much for everybody with finances below that, which is most of the country, the $70,000, that scary sticker price is not the number you would be paying. It could be considerably less than that.

Jill Anderson: Why do you think it’s so difficult to separate real cost from actual cost of college?

Phillip Levine: The financial aid process is just so incredibly complicated. It presents such a large barrier for people. It’s virtually impossible to really know how much college is going to cost you in advance. The only number that’s readily identifiable, that if you’re on the webpage, it’s like, “Oh, there’s a number. It’s $70,000.” Which is easy, but it’s also wrong for most people. And so it’s not surprising that people are confused. It’s critical that we find better ways to communicate what college would really cost your family for a particular student, what’s it going to cost you to actually come to college? Because it could be way less than that.

Jill Anderson: And I wonder if we really see a lot of colleges doing that type of marketing and communications about what this is really going to cost you. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of that publicly out there.

Phillip Levine: For a long time, the general communications approach from colleges and universities is they have some webpage, if you go to www.schoolx.edu/affordable, there’s a webpage like that at most colleges and universities. And there’ll be all this information about it’s definitely more affordable than you think. Take our word for it.

Well, people don’t want to take your word for it, they want to know, like, “What’s this really going to cost me? Here’s my financial circumstances, just give me an idea. Are we talking $10,000 or are we talking $70,000? Because those are two very different numbers.” And if it’s 10 or $15,000, at an early stage in the process, whatever, that’s not that big of a difference. That $70,000 is just so daunting that we need to find ways to be able to get people past that hurdle. So, I actually have started my own nonprofit corporation. It’s called My Intuition.

Jill Anderson: Right.

Phillip Levine: It’s available at myintuition.org and at many participating colleges’ websites, including Harvard. If you go to My Intuition and click on a school and enter just a handful of pieces of financial information, things that you can likely answer off the top of your head, or at least approximate off the top of your head, you will get a personalized estimate that says, for you, what is a particular college likely to cost. We’re available at 66 colleges and universities nationwide at the moment, and growing.

Jill Anderson: There’s so many tools out there to help people navigate the expensive college. But that process, applying for college, applying for financial aid is convoluted, especially if you’re a first generation student and you don’t have some sort of precedence in your family of how to do this or someone guiding you through that process.

Phillip Levine: Even if you do.

Jill Anderson:  Many of these tools are just not intuitive. What makes My Intuition different from some of these other tools?

Phillip Levine: I think it’s interesting to know how I personally got involved in this, because I’m an economics professor, I spent a lot of time thinking about social policy and using statistical analysis. But financial aid was never a topic that I actually studied in my work. This was personal for me. My kids got to be college age. I make a good living as a professor, but I don’t make a million dollars a year, and I was interested in financial aid. And I realized very quickly that I couldn’t figure out how much college was going to cost me.

Jill Anderson:  Oh, gosh.

Phillip Levine: And I just thought that was wrong. If it’s that difficult for me, this has got to be a major problem for a lot of people in the country. This was actually before net price calculators came around. So before net price calculators were invented, I would say that it was essentially impossible to find out the answer to this question.

In 2008, a law was passed so that, beginning in 2011, all colleges were required to provide these things called net price calculators, which were in some sense the right idea. They were intending to do exactly the right thing. They just, it’s a government law and there’s restrictions and regulations about how it has to operate, and they’re not that simple.

So it turns out that, for a lot of people, they start asking you to pull out tax forms. And as soon as they ask you to pull out a tax form, you’d click out of it because that’s scary and hard. That’s not the right approach. I would say before net price calculators, it was impossible to figure out what college was going to cost. After net price calculators, it’s not impossible, it’s just really hard.

My Intuition was a attempt to overcome those sorts of hurdles. The entire financial aid system is intended to identify the outliers. Who are the people with really unusual finances? We have to ask 150 questions to figure out what those unusual finances are. Let’s get all of that detail and we’re going to dig down as deep as we can and we’re going to nail down exactly what we think you can afford to pay. That’s why financial aid is as complicated as it is.

Most people’s financial lives are not that complicated. To be quite honest, neither is mine. And this is how I got to this point. I have a job that pays an income, I have a house, I have some retirement savings, but retirement savings doesn’t actually count in the financial aid process. A little bit of money in the bank, not a ton, but some stocks and bonds. And that’s it. That’s the vast majority of the population, have those things or less. Why not just ask about those things in English? Like how much money did you make last year? Not what was your adjusted gross income? Where you’re like, “I don’t have any idea what my adjusted gross income is.” It’s not even obvious I know what that means.

In English, ask people questions that they can answer. What was your total family income last year? Do you have any money in stocks and bonds? How much? If you don’t necessarily need to go pull out your Vanguard statement, you have a basic idea of how much you have, stick in the basic idea.

Now, that doesn’t provide you with a perfect estimate because, at the end of the day, there are a lot of details that matter. And so, what My Intuition does is it gives you a ballpark estimate. It gives you a range. So, for you, someone with your financial circumstances, here is a good estimate of what you’re likely to pay, let’s say $15,000. Depending on the specifics, it may be less than that, it might be more than that. We give you a statistic that says 90% of the people with your basic financial circumstances will pay between, let’s say, $10,000 and $20,000. So 15,000 is the best estimate for you. It’s likely to be in the teens.

Now, at the end of the day, you probably care about those differences. But at the beginning of the process when you’re thinking, “Where can I go to college?” And $70,000 is the number that you have in your head is what it really is going to cost, getting you into the teens is a very different story. You can worry about the details later. But from my perspective, the advantage of that approach is it just opens the door. It gets you over a hurdle that you think is insurmountable. I only make $40,000, how could I possibly afford $70,000? Well, of course that’s crazy. But no school is going to charge you $70,000. Find out what they’re actually going to charge you, at least in the ballpark. It may be $40,000, it may be less than that. It may be $2,000 or $5,000, which is still a struggle. Nobody’s saying that coming up with that kind of money is easy for families in those circumstances, but it also wouldn’t say that it’s an insurmountable hurdle that’s the sort of number that I can’t possibly figure out how to accomplish that.

The idea that if we can just get you to the point where the response is, “Maybe we can figure out a way to make that happen.” That’s a really important hurdle. I really want people to be able to get over that hurdle. And that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing and that’s why I think colleges are adopting it as quickly as they are.

Jill Anderson: So I was going to ask what you’ve learned from the students and families who’ve been using. The site’s been around for a few years now, more than a few years. And what have you been hearing from those students and families?

Phillip Levine: I’m a professor at Wellesley College and I developed this initially at Wellesley several years ago. But I’ve been doing it long enough that the students who actually are applying are now my students. It’s interesting because I can talk to them about it, and they tell me that they were in a position in their lives where they knew they wanted to go to college. They knew that they wanted to further themselves. And importantly their parents were in the same position. As a parent, you want the best thing that you possibly can get for your kids. The last thing that you want is for someone to tell you it’s impossible, that you can’t do it.

And I hear these stories from my students, and they tell me that they’re so scared in the college search process, thinking, “How am I going to do this?” And then they clicked on a few numbers, got an estimate, and it’s a revelation for them. It’s a wonderful experience to be able to see a student realize that basically their dreams now can come true.

Jill Anderson: Do you have some new research coming out?

Phillip Levine: So I’m giving this paper at the Graduate School of Education. What My Intuition addresses is a problem that I would label sticker shock. You’re responding to the $70,000, “Wow, that’s a lot. I can’t go.” That’s sticker shock. So the paper that I’m talking about is a way to detect do we observe students responding to the sticker price itself, not the price that matters for them? What the paper is about is that it addresses experiences of students applying to schools during the great recession, state to public institutions. Public institutions were just devastated by the financial crisis because all the revenue that was coming in from economic activity was drying up. And the states had no money. They cut spending on everything, including public education. There were very dramatic increases in tuition that students had to pay, because if the money wasn’t coming from the state, the money’s got to come from somewhere. In most states, they just charge students more, a lot more.

What’s interesting about that is that, some schools, the label is that they meet full need. So they do a calculation that says, “What do we think you can afford? We’re going to charge you what we think you can afford.” It doesn’t matter what the sticker price is. If $10,000 is the magic number, you pay $10,000. It doesn’t matter if the tuition at a public institution is $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 whatever. If you can afford 10, that’s what we’re charging you.

And in some states, the public institution, flagship institution, meets full need, and in others it doesn’t. And what we see is that, even in the states where the flagship meets full need, lower income students responded to the sticker price increase. They responded to the fact that tuition went up in California 32%, they responded by not applying, even though that tuition increase didn’t apply to them. So that’s an indication that people respond to the sticker price, even if it doesn’t matter to them. If that’s the only number they know, that’s what they respond to. That’s exactly what My Intuition is trying to overcome.

It all makes sense that the sticker shock problem occurs, but it’s nice to be able to detail that here’s an example of sticker prices changing. And students who are unaffected by it respond as if it does matter to them. That’s a mistake. That’s something we have to be able to find ways to overcome.

Jill Anderson: You can be low income and not necessarily a high achieving student because it’s just taking into account your finances.

Phillip Levine: Correct. This is just about finances.

Jill Anderson: It’s not looking at scholarships or any of that because that’d be hard to predict.

Phillip Levine: You still have to get accepted. Getting accepted and paying for it can be two different things.

Jill Anderson: So one of the things we see a lot right now among presidential candidates about trying to make college more affordable. In some ways, if you are a low income high achieving student, it already can be, right?

Phillip Levine: In some sense, free college is almost the ultimate marketing mechanism for conveying this information about cost. Free is a good number.

Jill Anderson: Right.

Phillip Levine: People like free, they respond to free. What I think gets lost in this discussion is that, for a lot of students, college already is free, broadly defined. We need ways to better communicate that. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of free college because it’s free college for everybody. So if you make over $250,000 a year, it’s free for you too. Not obvious to me that makes sense. But at least finding the ability to make college more affordable for lower income households, which may already exist and may just mean doing a better job of communication. That is an incredibly important goal and something that I think that we need to find ways to accomplish.

Jill Anderson: You’ve mentioned communications being an important part of this.

Phillip Levine: Huge part.

Jill Anderson: How do you think we move forward? What are some ideas to really make a change in this?

Phillip Levine: In terms of the work that I’m doing, I think scale is incredibly important. Right now we’re working with 66 colleges and universities, and that’s great. There’s hundreds of colleges and universities. It’s also the case the 66 colleges and universities at the moment tend to be morally higher level institutions that, as you say, if you can’t get accepted, you still can’t go. Tools like this, the ability to communicate actual prices after factoring in financial aid, to the extent that tools like that become ubiquitous in the marketplace, available to everybody at lots of different types of schools. At that point, the marketing will take care of itself. It needs to reach the level of scale where people just know, if you’re interested in learning about college costs, you can go here. And that has to be through word of mouth, through mentoring services, through school guidance counselors, in a lot of different ways as this becomes a larger scale entity that encompasses large numbers of institutions, it has the potential to overcome the communications problem.

Jill Anderson: Phillip Levine is a professor at Wellesley College and the creator of My Intuition, an online tool that helps students and their families determine the actual cost of college after financial aid. I’m Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast, produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Thanks for listening.

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly podcast featuring brief conversations with education leaders and innovative thinkers from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Jill Anderson, the EdCast is a dynamic space for discourse about problems and transformative solutions in education, shining a light on the compelling people, policies, practices, and ideas shaping the field. Find the EdCast on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher

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‘Bleak’ Landscape for K-12 Fiscal Equity, State-by-State Report Finds – Politics K-12

More than a third of the nation’s states distribute billions of K-12 dollars in a regressive manner, spending more on wealthier students than on impoverished students, according to a new report by the Education Law Center, an advocacy organization focused on fiscal equity in public education. Another 17 spend equal amounts of money between wealthy and poor students, even though research shows poor students are more expensive to educate. 

In its annual “Making the Grade” report released this week, the organization blames aging state funding formulas and rapidly increasing poverty rates among children for district budget cuts, stagnant teacher pay and academic achievement gaps. Several states, including Alabama, Colorado, and Texas, are spending significantly less than their counterparts, the report says, even though they have the economy and tax base to spend more.

“It’s a pretty bleak picture for school children, especially poor school children in many of those states,” said David Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center, which is based in New Jersey. 

Using a series of publicly available data points, the school funding advocacy group, which also has a legal arm, graded every state based on its funding level, the way it distributes its K-12 funds, and how much taxing effort, based on the state’s GDP, the state puts into funding its schools.

The authors lauded states like Alaska and Wyoming for spending a lot on public schools and distributing that money in an equitable manner, though both states’ funding formulas have been under legal and legislative attack this year as revenue from natural resource has rapidly declined. 

States in the nation’s South and Southwest, including Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas, received especially low marks for spending more money on wealthy districts than poor districts. 

Arizona, which has seen a surge of teacher strikes over low pay in recent years, and Nevada, which, until last year, had one of the oldest school funding formulas in the nation, received F’s in both categories. 

Utah received an A for distributing funds equitably between student groups, but an F for the amount of revenue it raises from its available tax base. (Utah, which spends around $5,000 per student, has one of the lowest per-pupil spending amounts in the nation). 

“There are regions of the country in which states … have financing systems that are inadequate on several fronts … and it’s a continuing trend, it’s an entrenched situation, and it doesn’t seem to move very much,” Sciarra said. 

Several states have lawsuits going through the courts to spur their state legislatures to overhaul their school funding formulas. A case in North Carolina over that state’s funding model could reach its conclusion in the coming months. 

The report’s authors urged advocates to put more pressure on states to overhaul their funding formulas. 

“Public  school underfunding is the reason why too many of the nation’s public schools do not have the  teachers, support staff, programs and other resources essential to give students a meaningful opportunity to succeed,” the report concludes. “Public school underfunding is now so chronic and severe that a growing movement of parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens is demanding reform in many state capitols. The good  news: this widespread  outcry over  underfunded public schools has  created  the most  significant opportunity for school funding reform in decades.”

Read the entire report here.

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On Education, Bloomberg Candidacy Would Be Game-Changing

Michael Bloomberg addresses the NAACP

News that Michael Bloomberg is moving closer to entering the Democratic presidential race offers a big opportunity for the cause of education reform.

Plenty of skeptics will dismiss his candidacy. The last billionaire from New York who seriously looked at the race, Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame, didn’t get any traction. There are two urban education-reformers, Cory Booker and Michael Bennet, already running, and they aren’t getting much traction, either. Another New York City mayor originally from Massachusetts, Bill de Blasio, already ran for president this election cycle and got no traction. Colorado governor John Hickenlooper ran as an education reformer and got no traction. And if Bloomberg is hoping to capture Democratic voters who have their hearts set on a Jewish candidate from New York who is in his late 70s, Bernie Sanders already has that demographic covered.

As someone who lived in New York City during Bloomberg’s mayoralty and who covered him as managing editor of the New York Sun, I’m here to tell you it would be a mistake to underestimate him.

There are factors that may not be immediately obvious. Bloomberg has really good operatives. Howard Wolfson, to whom Bloomberg has been referring questions about his political intentions, is experienced and effective. So are Kevin Sheekey, Stu Loeser, and Douglas Schoen. And because Bloomberg News employs many journalists at above-market wages in an era in which journalism jobs at above-market wages are rare, Bloomberg will get better-than-ordinary treatment from the press. Progressives inclined to be skeptical of Bloomberg as a billionaire former Republican who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 may be intrigued or at least mollified when they learn just how thoroughly left-of-center he is on abortion, climate change, and gun control.

The thing to remember about Bloomberg is that he is an Eagle Scout. One of the elements of the Scout Law is that a scout is brave.

To get a sense of how Bloomberg might enliven the campaign on the education front, take a look at his remarks from July at the NAACP annual convention:

Our schools are not preparing students for the tests that they will face in the job market, and the tests that they are taking in school often set the bar far too low.

Now I know testing these days isn’t popular. But if we shield our children from taking tests that measure essential skills, three bad things happen. Number one: teachers can’t possibly know if students are on track. Number two: parents don’t know if they’re falling behind. And number three: students don’t acquire the kind of knowledge, and discipline, and experience they will need to pass tests in the real world. And if they don’t pass tests in the real world, they don’t get the job.

That is the hard truth, and every business leader will tell you that, but too many politicians are afraid to say it… Today, most Democrats running for President are avoiding talking about President Obama, and they are also avoiding talking about charter schools, or actually opposing them….So when you hear a candidate talk about education as a civil rights issue, ask yourself: are they speaking hard truths, like President Obama did? Or just politically-convenient truths, like increasing spending?

Testing and charters were an important part of Bloomberg’s toolkit in New York. There, too, he attracted talent—Dennis Walcott, Joel Klein, and the team of education reformers that worked for them and have since gone on to pursue change in other districts and organizations: Paymon Rouhanifard, Christopher Cerf, Cami Anderson, John White…the list goes on.

But at the core of it was a kind of bravery—the character trait that allowed him to take on the teachers union, the entrenched bureaucracy, and the status quo.

Not everything that Bloomberg did in New York worked out. I was disappointed that his courage when it came to testing and charters never extended to supporting vouchers or a scholarship-tax-credit program that would have helped parents access Jewish, Catholic, and other private schools as alternatives to the local public schools. Instead, under Bloomberg, Catholic schools in New York closed in part because Bloomberg was using the taxing power of government to outbid them for high-quality teachers. But there’s little doubt that the public schools improved under his leadership as mayor. As he told it in the NAACP speech, while he was mayor the city opened 173 charter schools and he increased graduation rates for black and Latino students. (The Spring 2008 issue of Education Next offered an assessment of Bloomberg’s education record, “New York City’s Education Battles.”)

Bloomberg may yet decide not to enter the race. If he does, education is only one of many issues voters will consider. If he gets to a general election, Bloomberg would be facing off against President Trump, whose plan for a tax credit that states could use to support school choice scholarships goes beyond anything Bloomberg has publicly backed.

I suppose there’s some downside risk that if Bloomberg does get in and is clobbered by the teachers unions to the point of a humiliating defeat, it would be a setback for the cause of reform. But knowing Bloomberg and knowing the substance of these issues, I see that as an unlikely outcome. If Bloomberg gets in and fails to win, it will be in spite of his education record and stance, not because of it.

Who knows—his example might even encourage some other Democratic presidential candidates to return to backing education reform in the Clinton-Obama tradition. Causes and constituencies in American politics are generally better off being competed for by both political parties rather than being taken for granted by one or the other. Education reform is no exception. If Bloomberg is brave enough, video from that speech to the NAACP will soon be airing on television commercials and in Facebook video ads targeting Democratic primary states.

Ira Stoll is managing editor of Education Next. The journal’s editor-in-chief, Martin West, is the William Henry Bloomberg Professor of Education at Harvard University. Michael Bloomberg endowed the chair but plays no role in choosing recipients.

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Cyberbullying On the Rise in U.S. Schools, Federal Report Finds – Digital Education


About a third of middle and high schools said they deal with cyberbullying at least once a week to daily, according to the latest comprehensive school safety statistics, released this week by the Institute of Education Science’s National Center for Education Statistics.

That’s an uptick when comparing the 2017-18 and 2015-16 school years. 

The report found that 33.1 percent of middle schools and 30.2 of high schools reported disciplinary problems stemming from cyberbullying at least once a week, or as often as every day. That’s compared with just 4.5 percent of primary schools.

That appears to be a slight increase from the last time the data was collected, in the 2015-16 school year. That year, 25.9 percent of high schools, 25.6 percent of middle schools, and 4.2 percent of elementary schools reported dealing with problems stemming from cyberbullying at least once a week. 

The NCES study doesn’t go into detail about just where the cyberbullying is happening most frequently. But one recent study suggests that these days, it is more likely to come from Instagram than Facebook.

The cyberbullying numbers came as a bit of a surprise to Jethro Jones, who just recently left his job as principal of Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks, Alaska, to become a principal administrator in the district’s central office.

His reaction? “They surprise me in that they are not higher,” he said. Jones said he deals with at least one incident a week stemming from students’ online interactions, and it’s typically much more frequent than that. “It’s really easy to get your feelings hurt and one negative comment can overshadow a ton of positive feedback,” Jones said.

He’s also not surprised that the numbers were a bit higher for middle schoolers than for high schoolers.

“Kids in middle school especially aren’t mentally developed enough to make good choices online so they consistently make bad choices online,” he said. “They are so drama-filled and reactionary, they don’t know how to stop and think before they post something … There’s a lot of changes going on in middle school. By the time they get to high school, they are more sure of the kind of person they want to be and the kind of people they want to hang out with.”

So what can be done about cyberbullying? Jones tries to teach his students to use the THINK strategy before they post something online. They should ask: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

For more on cyberbullying, check out these good reads:

Image: Getty

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Ohio voters OK 73% of school tax issues in latest election

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters have approved nearly three-quarters of the public school district tax issues that were on ballots for Tuesday’s election.

The Ohio School Boards Association says unofficial results show voters passed 113 of the 154 school tax issues on the ballot, or 73%.

The association says just over half of the proposals were renewals, and all but a few of those 82 renewal measures were approved. There was less support for new school tax issues, as only 35 of those 72 issues were passed.

The votes come as state lawmakers are considering a possible overhaul of how Ohio schools are funded with a mix of state and local dollars. Ohio’s school-funding system has become a complicated patchwork since the system was found unconstitutional in 1997.

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The (Caring) Common Application | Harvard Graduate School of Education

All parents want the best for their children, but when it comes to college admissions “the best” seems to come with an ethical cost. In recent years, issues around resources and test preparation, private college advisers, stories of parents writing their child’s essays, and the tremendous anxiety often brought on teens undergoing the application process have circulated the news.

In Turning the Tide II: How Parents and High Schools Can Cultivate Ethical Character and Reduce Distress in The College Admissions Process, researchers at Making Caring Common observe, “Many parents — particularly middle- and upper-income parents — seeking coveted spots for their children in elite colleges are failing to focus on what really matters in this process. In an effort to give their kids everything, these parents often end up robbing them of what counts.”

To help refocus the conversation, Making Caring Common offers resources for families to help their children ethically navigate college admissions.

Ask Questions but not just about school performance
Engaging in conversations around what have been some of the most meaningful activities or classes in your child’s high school experience make space for reflection on what they value in a school. These kinds of conversations can lead to a more holistic decision about where to apply, rather than what the “best” option may be.

Talk About the Process but with trusted confidantes
Everyone has blind spots, especially when it comes to assumptions about “good” colleges. Having honest conversations about the process with other adults who don’t feed into competition can allow parents to distinguish their own lingering desires from their child’s interests.

Encourage Involvement but make sure it’s authentic
Students may feel pressure to load up their application with extracurriculars and community service work to make themselves a more competitive applicant — often at the expense of their mental health. Additionally, these commitments, especially community service work, can end up being superficial. It’s more important your child is involved in an activity or project they care about and would pursue without the added pressure of college.

REMEMBER: You are still a role model for your child. Teens are developmentally attuned to hypocrisy and inauthenticity in the voices of adults in their lives. Be honest and authentic about the conflicts you, as a parent, are facing. Consider opening the discussion to include your child.

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We Can’t Ignore The Mental Health Of College Students Of Color

The first year of college can take a toll on students’ mental health. This is especially true for students of color who are often marginalized on campus and are less likely to seek mental health services due to issues of access and stigma. Schools, in turn, are often not equipped to provide adequate attention or unaware of these students’ particular challenges.

HuffPost partnered with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to talk about these challenges and solutions during a panel discussion, “Mental Health and Wellness for Students of Color: Transitioning to College,” which was livestreamed on Wednesday. HuffPost Black Voices Editor Taryn Finley moderated the conversation with the following panelists:

  • Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, founding director of the College Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School

  • David Rivera, associate professor of counselor education at Queens College-City University of New York

  • John Silvanus Wilson, senior adviser and strategist to the president of Harvard University

  • David Williams, chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The panel, also presented by The Steve Fund, brought these experts together to explore what colleges can do to best support the emotional and mental health needs of students of color, especially those transitioning into college life. 

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