National Scene

July 2, 2019 - Volume 39 Issue 11


Education Week (6/28, Manno), Walton Family Foundation senior adviser for K-12 programs, Bruno Manno, writes that “charters are in troubled waters today” and “that won’t change anytime soon,” but “the ‘reckoning’ and ‘rollback’ is not all it’s cracked up to be.” Manno says, “The fact that [pro-charter] institutional innovations and systemic effects have proliferated is, in short, a more accurate success metric for assessing chartering.” Manno says, “Today’s assault on chartering is real – but overhyped and not unexpected.” Manno concludes that “the charter strategy is like the late 1950s Timex wristwatch advertising campaign that exposed the watch to a punishing test to demonstrate its durability – it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

Chalkbeat (7/1, Respess) reports National Alliance for Public Charter Schools president Nina Rees told attendees at the opening session for the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas, “We need to start fighting back against the attacks far more aggressively.” Her speech “reflected the anxiety of the charter movement, which once operated with high-profile support from members of both parties but has come under attack from more Democrats over the last few years.” Policymakers have encouraged “new limits on their growth in cities including New York City, Chicago, and Denver, and many of the Democratic presidential candidates have been cool or even openly hostile to charters on the campaign trail.” She said the charter movement will depend on its ability to attract public support the way recent teacher strikes have.

The Seventy Four (6/28, Hawkins) reported, “When it comes to living up to their obligation to serve students with disabilities, public charter schools face a host of challenges.” In response, Walton Family Foundation program officers “commissioned the education consulting firm Public Impact to examine possible synergies between” charter school advocates and parents of students with disabilities. The research “will be the topic of a panel to be held at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference, which takes place June 30 to July 3.”

U.S. News & World Report (6/28) reports, “Black and Hispanic charter school advocates are punching back” at Democratic presidential candidates who have criticized the schools on the stump. The piece quotes National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Senior Vice President of Advocacy Amy Wilkins saying, “When you have politicians who are saying something that’s so different than what these communities want you have to ask yourself why.” Wilkins’ group “spearheaded a petition that calls for the candidates to stop bowing to ‘powerful interests protecting the failed status quo and instead seek input from black and Latino families who support charter schools.”

The Dallas Morning News (6/27, Ayala, Writer) reports, “A controversial deal to convert some prekindergarten classrooms into charter campuses within the Dallas school district on Thursday again drew sharp criticism from opponents who say they worry about the privatization of public education.” This spring, DISD trustees “approved a plan to convert 10 preschools that were already part of partnerships with nonprofits into charter schools run mostly free from district authority,” and the Texas Education Agency “gave provisional approval of the district’s plan but required DISD to tweak the agreements making it is clear that the operating partner has ‘full autonomy’ concerning teachers and staff employed at the campus.” The board “was to vote Thursday night on finalizing those changes,” but “that promoted several dozen opponents to show up at the meeting to reiterate their displeasure with the changes.”

Teaching & Learning

In an opinion piece for The Atlantic (6/27, Rizga) contributing education writer Kristina Rizga writes, “One of the many lessons in democratic governance from effective black veterans in the South is that students learn important values and skills by participating in communal activities, and by observing interactions among adults and peers in the school building – just as much as they do by listening to lectures, taking notes, and passing tests individually.” Rizga says that “when states or districts impose curriculum without input from teachers, students, and the parents they serve, research shows that children lose opportunities to practice civic skills such as collaboration, consensus building, and leadership in the community.”

The Racine (WI) Journal Times (7/1) editorializes that a student’s SAT score “shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all” way to measure a student, “but it should be a factor.” Test scores should be “part of a balanced measuring of the totality of a student’s activities and experiences.” The newspaper is “glad to see colleges and universities, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, recognize that standardized-test scores aren’t the only measure of a student.”

The AP (6/26) reports that “a growing number of teachers, parents, medical professionals and researchers” are “convinced that smartphones are now playing a major role in accelerating student anxiety – a trend so pervasive that a National Education Association newsletter [labeled] anxiety a ‘mental health tsunami.’” The AP says, “research now points to smartphone-driven social media as one of the biggest drivers of stress,” though “researchers are still arguing whether phones drive student depression or depression drives phone use.”

Student Safety & Welfare

The Washington Post (6/26, Chiu) reports Beronica Ruiz, the mother of a 12-year-old student at a school in Passaic, New Jersey, was walking home with her son “pushing her 1-year-old daughter in a stroller” when “the boy noticed they weren’t alone. Three boys trailed behind – and he recognized them.” The three students had threatened and bullied the boy for being Hispanic. “Moments later, a 13-year-old boy allegedly attacked. Santiago said the boy first punched Ruiz’s son in the face. When the 35-year-old mother tried to step in, the teen hit her and ‘threw her to the ground,’ causing her to lose consciousness.” Ruiz’ attorney said the “13-year-old suspect is African American. ... Ruiz and her husband are Mexican and are in the United States on work permits while they await green cards, but their children are American citizens, he said.”

USA Today (6/26, Fagan) reports the attorney said “the attack was in retaliation for the victim’s son having alerted school officials June 18 that he was bullied.”

The New York Times (6/29, Hauser) reported, “Last year, a disagreement over how” a diabetic child’s “medical plan should be administered led the Jordan School District to bar the boy from attending classes, according to a lawsuit filed this month in Federal District Court.” In the lawsuit, the boy’s mother “alleges that the school district’s decision violates the boy’s rights under state and federal laws that require public schools to accommodate the medical needs of students, and that prohibit discrimination based on a disability.”

The Chicago Sun-Times (6/30, Struett) reports, “Hours before the Pride Parade set off in Chicago, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order to address hurtful treatment of transgender students in Illinois schools.” The new “Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force” will “examine school rules and suggest better policies for school dress codes, restroom accessibility and the use of pronouns, Pritzker said Sunday morning at the signing of the order creating the task force.” The group’s policy recommendations “will be published statewide by the Illinois Board of Education, though schools will not be obligated to implement those recommendations.”



Education Week (6/29, Ujifusa) reported, “Philanthropic groups associated with billionaire businessman and activist Charles Koch have announced two initiatives to deepen their involvement in K-12 education.” Education Week said, “One initiative is Yes Every Kid, a group that intends to find common ground between groups that typically have disagreed vehemently over issues such as labor protections and school funding.” The other initiative “is an agreement between the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation for each group to donate $5 million to what’s essentially a Silicon Valley-style incubator for education called 4.0 Schools.”