February 9, 2018 - Volume 38 Issue 5



The Texas Tribune (2/7) reports that state officials say that over half of the public school students in Texas “are in districts that don’t require teachers to be certified” because of “a recent law giving schools more freedom on educational requirements.” Under a 2015 law, districts can get “exemptions from requirements such as teacher certification, school start dates and class sizes — the same exemptions allowed for open enrollment charter schools.”

The Detroit Free Press (2/1) reports that a few dozen Detroit Public Schools Community District teachers have “been selected to be part of a first-of-its kind master teacher initiative in the district that eventually will take more than 200 talented teachers and turn them into leaders.” The piece reports that past versions of such programs “pulled talented teachers out of the classroom full-time to mixed results,” whereas teachers in the new program “will remain in the classroom roughly half the time and spend the rest mentoring, coaching and helping their peers, with a particular focus on new and struggling teachers.” The program is “a major part of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s efforts to rebuild a school system that’s been rocked for years by financial and academic turmoil.”

Indiana Public Media (2/1) reports that administrators in Indiana are coping with a statewide teacher shortage, and “lawmakers want to help license more teachers by waiving some testing requirements some educators see as a barrier to getting into the classroom.” The article reports the state Senate Education and Career Development Committee has passed legislation to “let the State Department of Education waive some content testing requirements. Specifically, if a teacher fails a content exam twice, and has already completed a student teaching experience.” However, new teachers would have to maintain a “B” average in teacher prep courses to be eligible for licenses.

The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (2/4) reports a group of 22 Colorado College students considering careers as teachers are “doing ‘field experience’ this semester in four rural districts east of Colorado Springs. The opportunity is part of new federal funding to develop programs aimed at shoring up Colorado’s rural teacher workforce and student achievement.”

ESSA funding pilot program

Education Week (2/2) reports that under a pilot program being launched by ED under ESSA, up to 50 districts will be able to have “local, state, and federal funding follow children, so that kids with greater need have more money attached to them.” Under the “Weighted Student Funding Pilot,” districts “can combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students. English-language learners, kids in poverty, students in special education—who cost more to educate—would carry with them more money than other students.” The article quotes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos saying in a statement, “This is a great opportunity for local district leaders to put students first. Instead of relying on complex federal rules to allocate funds, local leaders can use this flexibility to match funds—local, State or Federal—to the needs of students.”

Curricula / STEM

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/7) says “more than a half dozen metro school districts are revamping their math programs” using a new approach that involves “less memorizing formulas and more focus on understanding math concepts and building up kids’ confidence to do math.” Some school leaders “say the changes are necessary to shift the emphasis from boosting test scores to better preparing students” for college and the workforce, but critics argue the new approach “bombards students with too many learning styles and fails to teach them basic math.” The article discusses the new approach in the context of the “national attention” math education is receiving, including from the Department of Education, which was directed by the White House “to spend $200 million annually on grants that foster science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.”

EdSource (2/4) reports that a number of teachers have “found that teaching math outside the classroom — in the park, on a city street, at a playground — is an effective way to engage math-averse students at all grade levels.” Teachers using this approach “don’t need to plan extensive field trips to teach math outdoors. A short walk around the block can have the same impact.” The article describes how teachers relate math concepts to such hands-on activities as counting or measuring grains of sand on a beach or learning “ratios by measuring staircase risers.”

The Houston Chronicle (2/7, Ward) reports that in recent years, K-12 teachers in Texas have increasingly been expected to teach STEM subjects in a way that integrates them together and with non-STEM subjects. Some teachers report not having been trained to do so, and there are “many workshops and camps, courses and training sessions that offer Houston-area teachers tools, knowledge and ideas for introducing their students to STEM.”

The Edmond (OK) Sun (2/4) reports Devon Energy awarded Science Giants grants to three Oklahoma City schools to “support of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.” West Field Elementary received a $25,000 grant “to create two Nature Explore outdoor classrooms for grades K-2,” each of which “will have a sand and water center, a building area, a nature art center and tools such as magnifying glasses and tape measures.” Deer Creek Independent received a $15,000 grant “to develop the school’s engineering and robotics programs for fourth- through sixth-grades.” Crooked Oak High School received a $10,000 grant “to purchase digital microscopes, probes and graphing calculators” that will allow “science teachers to incorporate more advanced measurement techniques into their lessons while letting students view real-time data in a variety of formats.” The Sun notes that since 2010, the “Devon Science Giants program has awarded more than $875,000 in grants to U.S. schools.”

The Grand Forks (ND) Herald (2/4) reports North Dakota state School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced the state Department of Public Instruction has expanded a partnership with the Microsoft Corporation to introduce into public schools Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, through which “a volunteer computer science professional from Microsoft or another industry partner teams up with a classroom instructor to team-teach computer science courses.” Currently, only one North Dakota high school has a TEALS program. For the expanded partnership, Microsoft is “hiring a full-time, North Dakota-based coordinator, volunteering some of its employees and expert instructors as classroom teachers and exploring further investment to expand this program for high school students, Baesler said.” Baesler is now “gauging interest from superintendents and high schools in using a unique program for computer science instruction, she said in a news release.”


In the Washington Post (2/3, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” column, Valerie Strauss reported on “an unsettling new report titled ‘Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,’ which was researched over the course of a year by the Teaching Tolerance project of the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.” The report found only eight percent of American high school seniors “could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War”; 68 percent “did not know that slavery formally ended only with an amendment to the Constitution”; 22 percent “could correctly identify how provisions in the Constitution gave advantages to slaveholders”; and 44 percent knew “slavery was legal in all colonies during the American Revolution.” The report also “found that while teachers say they are serious about teaching the subject, they are uncomfortable doing so.” It warned the US “needs an intervention in the ways that we teach and learn about the history of American slavery.”

The Wall Street Journal (2/7, Brody, Subscription Publication) reports that data show a drop in the number of kindergarten through second grade students who were suspended from New York City public schools. The statistics come following a push by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the school district to reduce suspensions, and in the context of a nationwide movement to introduce conflict-resolution techniques to deal with fights and other grounds for suspension.

EdSource (1/31, Romney) reports on an approach to discipline called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports being used in California’s Antioch Unified School District which “sets clear behavioral expectations for all students and rewards them daily for complying.” Research on the approach shows it “reduces suspensions as well as overall behavior problems that result in student referrals to the principal’s office,” and one elementary school in Antioch, which adopted the approach in 2014, saw an 82 percent reduction in suspensions last year.

The AP (2/4, Tanner) reports a new study published in Pediatrics analyzed almost 81,000 students in ninth and 11th grade and found that nearly 2,200, or nearly three percent, identified as transgender or gender nonconforming. The study found that these children reported worse mental and physical health than other kids, echoing results seen in previous research. The AP adds that an “American Academy of Pediatrics policy...says pediatricians should use gender-neutral terms and encourage teens to feel comfortable talking ‘about their emerging sexual identities.’”

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

Child and Adult Care Food Programs

West Virginia Department of Education to Provide Funding through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USAD) Child and Adult Care Food Program CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia day care providers seeking ways to serve nutritious, healthy meals may qualify for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE). The program offers cash reimbursements for meals served to children and USDA donated foods.

Children enrolled at childcare centers or other facilities participating in the child and adult care food program receive free meals. The reimbursement rate to providers depends on the number of children eligible for free or reduced price school meals. Participants may be reimbursed for up to three meal types including breakfast, lunch, snacks or supper.

Eligible childcare centers are licensed or approved public or private non-profit facilities. For-profit child care centers also are eligible if they receive compensation under Title XX of the Social Security Act for at least 25 percent of the children enrolled, or if at least 25 percent of the children they serve are eligible for free or reduced price school meals.

Licensed or registered family day care home providers also may participate in the program under the auspices of an approved family day care sponsoring organization.

There are 9 approved sponsors throughout West Virginia. Additionally, homeless shelters providing services for families and after-school programs located in low-income areas can participate. Program sponsors provide meals at no extra charge to all enrolled participants or participating facilities.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information reques0ted in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1) MAIL: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2) FAX: (202) 690-7442; or

(3) EMAIL:


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is seeking partnerships with organizations across the state to help feed children and provide supervised activities during the summer months. When school is out of session during the summer months, community programs and organizations are vital to ensuring children in West Virginia are still receiving the nutrition they need, especially in low-income areas.

County boards of education, local government agencies and other nonprofit organizations can participate in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which ensures children (ages 18 and under) in lower-income areas continue to receive free, nutritious meals during the summer when they do not have access to the programs that are available to them during the school year, like the School Breakfast Program or National School Lunch Program. Feeding sites often include schools, churches, community centers, pools, parks, libraries, housing complexes and summer camps.

“Supporting summer feeding sites in your community is one of the most important things you can do to ensure no child goes hungry this summer,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine. “Children require consistent, good-quality nutrition for development of their minds and bodies. We want to make certain every child returns to the classroom ready to learn.”

An average of 179,000 children in West Virginia, about 67 percent of school children, depend on free and reduced-price meals at school, yet only about 20,000 receive the free meals provided by the SFSP.

“In 2017, 507 Summer Food Program sites provided nutritious meals to children in West Virginia and we believe many organizations will renew their commitment for 2018,” said Amanda Harrison, Executive Director of the Office of Child Nutrition. “We encourage new organizations in communities all across the Mountain State to join us so the number of sites can grow and more children have access to healthy meals.”

Organizations interested in becoming a 2018 summer sponsor should contact Cybele Boehm or Samantha Reeves with the Office of Child Nutrition at  or snsuffer@k12.wv.usor by calling (304) 558-2709. Summer sites will be announced in May 2018.

Source: West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications. For additional information, contact Jessica Hall at 304-558-2699 or

You can follow the West Virginia Board of Education/West Virginia Department of Education on Facebook and Twitter.


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