March 9, 2018 - Volume 38 Issue 9



The New York Times (3/7, Greenhouse, Subscription Publication) reports the “highly unusual” West Virginia teacher strike “could signal the beginning of a new trend: a revolt against austerity policies.” The Times describes how simmering anger among the state’s low-paid teachers led to their rejection of proposed annual raises that were lower than likely inflation rates and describes how austerity measures in the state have been credited with a teacher shortage in the state. “Oklahoma is facing its own severe teacher shortage,” and teachers in the state “have been following the West Virginia strike closely and are planning their own protests and strategies for a possible walkout.” The Times reports that the “rumblings” in these and other states “come as the Supreme Court weighs a case in which the conservative majority is expected to rule that requiring government employees to pay union fees violates their First Amendment rights,” likely weakening unions.

The AP (3/6, Thompson) reports that as the West Virginia strike ended, “momentum was building elsewhere for similar protests over pay and benefits for the nation’s public school teachers.” The article describes activity in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and reports that the West Virginia strike’s outcome “has given a boost to organizers who say the national spotlight on teacher pay is long overdue.” The AP reports National Education Association Vice President Becky Pringle says that “teacher unrest around the United States has grown as strong health care and retirement benefits, viewed in the late 1980s and 1990s as a tradeoff to slower pay growth, have begun to erode at district or state levels.”

In a column in the Chicago Tribune (3/7), Eric Zorn writes that the “dramatic and possibly illegal” West Virginia teacher strike is being called the “West Virginia Spring” by some observers, juxtaposing this against the Supreme Court’s deliberation in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which “seems likely to further erode the dwindling power of the union movement.” Zorn writes that the teachers in West Virginia had neither explicit support from union leaders or politicians, nor did they have the legal right to strike or bargain collectively. “Nevertheless, they persisted.” Zorn writes that though the deal the teachers got has some caveats, “West Virginia teachers have shown that organized workers can still have clout in the inevitable post-Janus America if their cause is just and their resolution strong.” The Atlantic (3/5) also covers the potential widespread impact of the West Virginia strike.

The AP (3/7, Raby) reports on the resumption of classes in schools across West Virginia after the end of the statewide teacher strike that lasted nine days. Teachers “wangled a 5 percent pay increase from their elected leaders.” The piece describes the scenes of schools reopening and welcoming students back to class, adding that Gov. Jim Justice “has asked county superintendents to be flexible as they decide how to meet the requirement of having 180 days of school, saying students ‘have suffered enough.’ He wants families to have time for summer vacation and doesn’t want summer feeding programs placed in jeopardy if classes go too far into June.”

Curricula / STEM

The Detroit Free Press (3/6, Higgins) reports an analysis of Michigan public student achievement by the Education Trust-Midwest “raises concerns about big declines in proficiency among third-graders — struggles that are impacting kids across all demographic areas, including higher-income students and white students.” The report compared Michigan’s performance with 11 states that use a similar standardized exam based on the Common Core Standards. The findings indicate Michigan saw the largest decline in third-grade English language proficiency for the 11 states that had annual data from 2014 to 2016. Michigan was also the “only state that saw a decline in third-grade math from 2014 to 2016.” The Detroit News (3/6) also covers this story.

The AP (3/7) reports Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife “are giving Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology $30 million to help improve the literacy skills of elementary school students across the nation.” The donation will fund the Reach Every Reader program, which “will combine scientific research with methods of tracking and predicting students’ reading abilities to develop a web-based screening tool to identify kindergartners at high risk of reading difficulties.”

The Houston Chronicle (3/7, Fernandez Velazquez) reports on Idea Lab Kids, a program throughout the Houston area that offers a variety of classes during school vacations. The article says the classes incorporate both arts and science subjects, and provides background on the origins of the program.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (3/7) says the Tennessee Department of Education on Wednesday “announced 21 new career and technical education certificates it will be implementing in schools in the 2018-19 year.” The new certificate program, which includes welding, agricultural engineering and applied technologies, office management, accounting, and coding, “helps create new pathways for students to achieve certificates through a specific program of study.”

The Hechinger Report (3/6, Mader) reports on how online AP classes mixed with in-person learning can help students in rural parts of the country get access to similar classes as students in more affluent areas. A lack of teachers, right budgets, and “dwindling enrollment numbers” make it difficult for schools to offer electives offered in many suburban and urban schools. As a result, rural students “often lag their peers in advances courses, and also in college and completion.” Moreover, the lack of AP classes “may increase the financial burden on college-bound rural students.” But as more rural schools turn to virtual programs, “there’s little evidence that online learning is equal to or can exceed outcomes from traditional in-person instruction,” and dome of the “more time intensive virtual programs have shown poor outcomes.”

The Denver Post (3/5) says a collaboration between two Colorado schools with “different educational landscapes may hold clues on how to solve the state’s teacher shortage and to bridge the technological divide between urban and rural classrooms.” The Post explains that “twice a week, teachers and students from the high-performing, 1,800-student STEM School Highlands Ranch use video and teleconferencing know-how to reach across about 100 miles of prairie to the 100-student Arickaree School District.” The approach, dubbed “synchronous online education,” grants “smaller rural schools access to the most recent technology,” and “lets one teacher reach students in different classrooms in almost every corner of the state.” As such, it may be “an important tool for Colorado schools that lack enough instructors to teach key subjects such as math, science or special education, proponents said.” The Post notes some rural Colorado districts “have gone months, and sometimes years, without full-time teachers in some subjects.”


The New York Post (3/6, Fredericks) reports that according to a Quinnipiac University poll, “a majority of American voters don’t want teachers packing heat in the classroom – but they overwhelmingly support staffing schools with armed security guards.” The survey “showed that by 58 percent to 40 percent, voters oppose allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds,” but by “82 percent to 14 percent” they support “having armed security officers in schools.”


Source: National Connection Daily, a National School Boards Association e-publication.