February 22, 2019 - Volume 39 Issue 7



Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (2/20) “Answer Sheet” blog that the (West Virginia concerted work stoppage) was in protest of “the privatization of public education” and “to fight for resources for” struggling public schools. “West Virginia teachers remain at the forefront of a rebellion by educators throughout the country who began striking last year over meat-and-potatoes issues such as pay and health-care costs. But that movement has morphed into something broader: a fight in support of the U.S. public education system that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos once called ‘a dead end.’”

The New York Times provides this analysis: Opinion / How West Virginia’s Education Bill Will Punish Children: Lawmakers are lashing out at teachers after their strikes. The children will lose the most. The link is

Education Week (2/20, Will) reports that according to a new international study, “when teachers have higher cognitive skills, their students perform better academically. ... And teachers’ cognitive skills differ widely across the world, with teachers in the United States performing worse than the average teacher in numeracy and slightly better than the average in literacy. Similarly, U.S. students perform below the average score in math and about average in reading. Notably, teachers have stronger cognitive skills – and their students perform better in math and reading – in countries that pay teachers more, like in Ireland, Canada, and Finland. Teachers’ cognitive skills were measured by an international survey of adults’ information-processing skills, like literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving.”

The Hechinger Report (2/20) reports a growing number of districts across the country are using online learning platforms such as Edgenuity “as they face a critical shortage of certified teachers. During the 2016-17 school year, 71 schools in the state used online learning platforms, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. Last year, the number grew to 106 schools. This fall, 91 schools across the state have students signed up to take courses online, a number that could rise if schools add classes this spring.”

The AP (2/17) reported Michigan state lawmakers are weighing “whether to cut schools some slack after frigid temperatures and other weather caused a high number of snow days.” Current state law “forgives K-12 districts from making up six days that have been canceled for emergencies, and schools can get a waiver for three additional days” Some state “legislators from both parties say the wintry weather has been so extreme that the law should be loosened.” In fact, many districts already have “reached or exceeded nine snow days,” with some “up to 15 or 16, which means their students would have at least an extra week of school in June.” A recently-submitted bill, however, “would exclude days that are canceled during state-declared emergencies from counting as snow days.” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has said “that she is open to forgiving snow days that occurred during the state of emergency,” but the “fate of the legislation is uncertain.”

The Washington Post (2/19, Truong) reports on the challenging decision-making process administrators face over whether to close schools for inclement weather. On such days, “opinions and irritation inevitably abound, especially when systems close and little snow or rain actually falls. Some parents and students appreciate the caution; others decry what they view as an unnecessary hassle.”

Education Week (2/19, Goldchain) reports an ACT report found that rural students “are more often overlooked when it comes to education technology policy reform than their peers in non-rural communities,” being “almost twice as non-rural students” to have “unpredictable” internet access at home. Many more rural students than their peers “said they only had one device at home” and “reported they do not have access to broadband at a minimum speed for consistently receiving high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video,” according to Education Week. ACT Center for Equity in Learning Chief Officer Jim Larimore stated, “We need to do a better job of closing these equity gaps to ensure that we’re providing all students with the opportunity to be successful.”

The Deseret (UT) News (2/20, Cortez) reports a bill to “allow teachers to give class credit to students for their efforts on standardized tests” has cleared the Utah state Senate Education Committee. “The legislation doesn’t penalize students who opt out of standardized testing” but would reward students who “take the tests and give their best efforts. ... Currently, state law prohibits schools from encouraging participation on the year-end tests.”

Education Week (2/20, Ujifusa) reports that according to a new report from AASA, the School Superintendents Association, Medicaid “needs an overhaul in order to make it easier for more schools to access and use.” The report “found that 84 percent of districts that reported not seeking reimbursements from Medicaid for school-based health services are rural. More than half of those, 55 percent, have enrollments of less than 1,000 students. And 37 percent of rural districts in the survey say that the costs of complying with Medicaid’s administrative requirements led them to avoid seeking funds from the program.”

In a Washington Post (2/19, Gartner) op-ed, Boost Oregon executive director Nadine Gartner opines that the best way to get parents undecided about vaccines to vaccinate their kids is to give “them an opportunity to learn about vaccines directly from medical professionals.” Gartner notes that in recent years, “more and more families with kindergarten-age children have sought nonmedical exemptions from school immunization requirements.” Gartner asserts that parents who haven’t vaccinated their kids are sometimes motivated by anxiety, not stupidity or an anti-science attitude.


The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (2/20) reports for the second year running, the Kentucky legislature “will take no action on charter school funding – effectively shelving the state’s controversial charter law. ... That law, once heralded by Republicans for its promise to help needy families escape failing schools, has floundered on the books for two years without funding.” Because of the legislature’s inaction, “no charter schools have opened in the Bluegrass State.”

The Denver Post (2/20) reports the school board in Aurora, Colorado, has voted to revoke the charter of Vega Collegiate Academy “after just two years in operation, alleging the public school breached its contract by failing to properly meet the educational requirements of its special needs students.” The school will be required to close by the end of the school year. The school faces allegations that it “failed to provide special education services in compliance with students’ individualized education program requirements, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and corresponding state laws.”

Resource opportunities

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 in the fall ready to learn.”

An average of 208,000 children in West Virginia or about 76 percent of school children, depend on free and reduced-price meals at school, yet only about 21,000 receive the free meals provided by the SFSP.

“In 2018, 554 Summer Food Program sites provided nutritious meals to children in West Virginia and we believe many organizations will renew their commitment for 2019,” 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 2019 summer sponsor should contact Cybele Boehm or Samantha Reeves with the Office of Child Nutrition by calling (304) 558-3396. Summer sites will be announced in June 2019.

For more information, contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699 or

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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.”

The Wall Street Journal (2/12, Castellanos, Subscription Publication) reports United Technologies Corp. is committing to investing $1 million over several years into Girls Who Code, the nonprofit high school computer science initiative. United Technologies senior VP and Chief Digital Officer Vince Campisi said the effort will help Girls Who Code expand and thereby increase the number of female technology workers.