February 1, 2019 - Volume 39 Issue 4



The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (1/29, Bailey) reports Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) on Tuesday urged “Kentucky school districts to toughen up in the face of dangerously frigid winds that are blowing through the region. Speaking on 84 WHAS radio Tuesday, host Terry Meiners reminded Bevin that he would be up late tonight with his children because of classes being canceled on Wednesday. ‘Now we cancel school for cold, I mean – ‘ Bevin said. ‘It’s deep freeze; this is serious business,’ Meiners responded. ‘Come on, now,’ Bevin said. ‘There’s no ice going with it or any snow. What happens to America. We’re getting soft, Terry, we’re getting soft.’” In response, the Kentucky Education Association, “which has jousted with Bevin over pension reform,” said in a tweet, “We will always support decisions made for the health & safety of Kentucky’s children. Always.”

The Washington Post (1/30, Stanley-Becker) reports that Bevin “tried to qualify his comments, saying, ‘I do appreciate it’s better to err on the side of being safe.’ But he also said he was ‘being only slightly facetious.’ Then he doubled down. ‘But it does concern me a little bit that in America – on this and any number of other fronts – we’re sending messages to our young people that if life is hard, you can curl up in the fetal position somewhere in a warm place and just wait until it stops being hard,’ he said.” The Huffington Post (1/30, Campbell) and The Hill (1/30, Folley) also cover this story.

Chalkbeat (1/28) reports that according to newly released state graduation rate data, “states with low test scores don’t necessarily have low graduation rates, and vice versa.” Moreover, “state test scores are less pegged to graduation rates than they were several years ago.” The piece argues that this disconnect is “the latest indication that the nation’s graduation rate gains may have more to do with changes in graduation standards than with how much students are learning. The U.S. graduation rate rose from 79 percent to 84.6 percent from 2011 to 2017, even as test scores stayed largely flat.”

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette (1/28, Duffy) reports the Iowa Department of Education released a statement Monday citing National Center on Education Statistics data saying the state’s “high school graduation rate, at 91 percent, is the highest in the country.” Iowa “has had the top rate since 2010, the first year all states reported graduation rates in a common way. This year, states closely trailing Iowa were New Jersey, at 90.1 percent; Tennessee, 89.8 percent; and Kentucky, 89.7 percent.” WOI-TV Des Moines, IA (1/28, Rossi) reports similarly.

Alabama Live (1/27) reports Alabama “finds itself at or near the top of the list” for high school graduation rates. “But don’t celebrate just yet. Alabama’s high graduation rates a few years ago brought federal auditors to the state, resulting in an admission by state officials that rates were artificially inflated because they counted students whose coursework wasn’t aligned with state standards.” The piece notes that Alabama college and career readiness statistics don’t measure up to the state’s graduation rate. “Alabama’s state superintendents – both past and present – say that gap matters a lot.” The piece quotes former Superintendent Joe Morton saying, “A high graduation rate is wonderful news, but the news comes with an asterisk. That asterisk is that in too many schools the gap is so great that students and their families are being misled into thinking the graduates are ready for their next step of some form of additional education and/or work, when they really are not.”

The Hill (1/28, Samuels) reports on Monday, the President “embraced proposals from lawmakers in six states that would allow public schools to offer Bible literacy classes.” Trump tweeted, “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!” The Hill adds that “Fox & Friends” had featured proposals on the matter this morning before the President tweeted.

Santa Fe New Mexican (1/28, Nott) reports New Mexico’s House Education Committee “unanimously approved four bills aimed at helping the state’s at-risk students” Monday, “designed to comply with a judge’s ruling that more must be done to help those children.” Two bills increase available funding “bilingual-certified teachers” and those pursuing that educational path, addressing a current shortage in the state, per the New Mexican, while other bills would align disparate existing education legislation and departments and “increase starting salaries for teachers in all three tiers of the state’s system by some 20 percent.” According to the New Mexican, “Several superintendents and teachers” in attendance “said the state is losing graduates of New Mexico college education programs to nearby states that pay teachers more,” and bill supporters “said they are an interconnected package to help more students succeed.”

The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (1/30, Mahoney) reports Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “announced Wednesday that he is challenging Florida to go from No. 24 to No. 1 in the nation for its workforce and technical training programs by 2030, and issued an executive order he said would be the first step to achieving that goal.” The piece quotes DeSantis saying, “We have too many folks who are not prepared for either college or workforce success. ... We have a lot of demand in the economy for jobs in education, health services, trade, transportation. We want to be nimble. We want to be responsive to how the economy changes.”

The Seventy Four (1/30, Langhorne) runs an article about Digital Pioneers Academy Public Charter School in Washington, DC, the district’s “first computer science-focused middle school. Opened in August, the school is small, serving about 120 sixth-grade students across four classes but has plans to build out to 12th grade. Every day, students take computer science as a part of their core curriculum.” The piece reports nearly all of the school’s students “come from wards seven and eight, D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods, and, because DPA’s leadership recruited heavily in the local area, two-thirds of the students went to the neighborhood elementary schools.”

Stateline (1/30) reports that “spurred by teacher strikes and a sense of crisis, Colorado’s new governor is one of 33 newly elected leaders of states and territories who campaigned on improving education funding.” But, says Stateline, “while most states are likely to put more money into schools this year, political divisions, budget constraints and competing visions for how to fix the education system could lead to some tense debates.” For example, “Colorado is projected to have as much as $1.2 billion more to spend for its budget in the coming fiscal year that starts on July 1. But lawmakers will have to balance Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ $227 million proposal to offer full-day kindergarten to all children against other priorities, such as a push by teachers unions to spend $672 million to bring K-12 funding up to the level recommended by the state school funding formula.”

Politico Morning Education (1/29) reports Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) are scheduled to announce on Wednesday “new legislation that would create major federal investments in school buildings. It’s one of the first big items on the House education committee’s agenda this year.” The legislators “will join union leaders on Wednesday to unveil their plan to spend $100 billion over a decade to boost the ‘physical and digital infrastructure of schools across America,’ according to a House Democratic aide. The plan, which Democrats said would create 1.9 million jobs, is meant to address the ‘chronic underinvestment in school buildings’ across the country.”

Forbes (1/29) carries recommendations from the Forbes Technology Council on “practical, easy-to-implement ways to leverage modern technology for education.” AlertBoot’s Tim Maliyil praised the opportunities offered by “low-cost” Coursera supplements to engineering programs, while Enola Labs’ Marcus Turner recommended that students have an option to learn “remotely” when they are prevented “from being physically present in the classroom.” Danny Allan of Veeam Software observed that “easily secured and future-proof technologies such as Chromebooks and tablets” address the “significant” issues of security and data management, while “the use of Google technologies for schools...can bring students to the reality of technology” and facilitate organization and collaboration, according to CI&T’s Bruno Guicardi. Other experts praise smartphone apps, voice assistants, and chatbots for their potential in engaging students in learning.

Grant Opportunities

The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraiinitiative seeks to support these libraries, as well as archives and related organizations, in their work through grants of up to $50,000. IMLS will award grants across three categories, including Transforming School Library Practice. Deadline to apply: Feb. 25.

In a Bloomberg View (9/4) piece, Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg chair of business journalism at CUNY’s Baruch College, writes, “For two decades, the prevailing wisdom among education philanthropists and policymakers has been that the U.S. school system needs the guiding hand of centralized standard-setting to discipline ineffective teachers and bureaucrats. Much of that direction was guided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions since 2000 to influence both schools and education policy.” However, “top-down national initiatives based on standardized testing and curricular uniformity” have waned in popularity, and now groups including Gates are moving toward a more local approach. Gates’ “K-12 philanthropy will concentrate on supporting what it calls ‘locally driven solutions’ that originate among networks of 20 to 40 schools.”