National Scene

February 7 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 5

National Scene


CNBC (2/3, Kim) reports on efforts being taken in districts across the country to forestall the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, with some canceling “Chinese student exchange programs to alleviate fears in the community.” The article describes actions being taken in Washington state and in Massachusetts, adding that “Philadelphia’s William Penn Charter School said in January that it was canceling its two-week-long Chinese student exchange program after a student was tested for the coronavirus.”

Education Week’s (2/4, Prothero) “Rules For Engagement” blog reports American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, in a press conference Tuesday, called on the Trump Administration to provide educators and those who deal with the public closely more guidance on how to respond to the growing coronavirus threat. At the press conference, Weingarten “said educators and school nurses need more specific instructions on what they should do to prepare for an increase in coronavirus cases in the U.S.” She said, “If we’re looking to the CDC for guidance, which we certainly should be ..., they’re often deferring to state agencies. And then if you go to the state, they refer you back to the CDC.” In response to teacher concerns about coronavirus, the AFT assembled some guidelines for schools to take to minimize the risk of possible transmission.

CNN (2/4, Asmelash, Moon) reports, “There haven’t been any coronavirus cases” in “Alhambra, California – yet more than 14,000 people are urging the local school district to close until the outbreak ends.” The petition “pleads with Alhambra Unified School District, asking it to close its schools.” The petition says, “The virus has already made a name for itself by killing many individuals in China as well as spreading to other countries at a fast pace.” It “goes on to say that attending school would ‘maximize the spread of the virus,’ and advocates for wearing face masks as protection if students are forced to attend.”


The AP (2/5) reports the Idaho House Education Committee on Wednesday rejected math, science and English standards put forward by the State Board of Education “to make sure Idaho’s 300,000 students are meeting specific criteria.” If the Senate also rejects the proposed standards, “the Board of Education would create temporary rules to take before lawmakers next year.” According to the AP, the “Idaho Content Standards are heavily based on Common Core standards and are often referred to by that name.”

Teaching & Learning

Education Week (2/4, Will) reports a new study finds that students “perform better on end-of-year standardized tests when their teachers are tough graders – and argues that the ‘mindset that says ‘everybody gets a gold star’ does more damage than good.” The report, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, found that this “effect holds true for students across racial and ethnic groups, gender, socioeconomic makeup, and previous academic background.” The study also found that teachers “who attended selective colleges, hold graduate degrees, and have more experience tend to have higher grading standards.”

Newsday (NY) (2/4) reports, “The Long Island STEM Hub, a volunteer effort to attract students to careers in science, technology engineering and mathematics,” is launching a series of 10 videos dubbed “Full STEM Ahead Long Island” “funded by a $320,000 grant from New York’s Empire State Development, secured through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council process. Speaking at a kickoff event at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, Ken White, Long Island STEM Hub co-steward, said the online videos and their accompanying curriculum materials let the program extend to schools all over Long Island.”

The Seventy Four (2/4, Hawkins) profiles Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, noting that many schools in the state “exist in a degree of geographic isolation that’s hard to fathom, in far-flung mountain hamlets with high levels of substance abuse, few social supports and even fewer economic prospects. The schoolhouse is often a community’s chief – or lone – public building.” The article offers details of Schwinn’s CV and segues into an edited interview in which discussed “the challenge of introducing social-emotional learning in Southern, red-state schools, her hope of training teachers free of charge and how to empower schools to respond to emotional disturbances that, in other times, were the responsibility of other civic agencies.”

Testing & Assessment

Chalkbeat (2/4) reports Indiana lawmakers may soon end the “requirement that teachers be evaluated using their students’ test scores.” According to the article, the proposal is a “surprising shift for the state’s Republican party, which once was aggressively reform-minded.” But growing “unrest among Indiana teachers culminated in thousands joining the national Red For Ed movement – rallying at the statehouse in November to demand greater support for public schools.”

School Safety

The New York Times (2/6, Alba) reports the Lockport City School district has become the first known public school district in New York to adopt facial recognition technology. The district’s decision to “monitory who’s on the property at its eight schools” shows how “facial recognition is spreading across the country and being deployed in new ways in the United States, as public officials turn to the technology in the name of public safety.” Proponents argue the technology is “a crucial crime-fighting tool, to help prevent mass shootings and stop sexual predators.” Opponents contend the concerns “about facial recognition — namely privacy, accuracy and racial bias — are even more worrisome when it comes to children.”

The AP (2/4, Schreiner) reports the Kentucky House Education Committee approved a bill Tuesday that requires police officers carry weapons when assigned to schools. The proposal was approved by a large margin “after opposition from some urban lawmakers, who said the decision on arming school-based officers should be left to each local school district.” The bill previously passed the state Senate on a 35-1 vote last month, “so if it clears the House unamended, it will go to Gov. Andy Beshear.” The bill is “a follow-up to last year’s sweeping school safety law, which did not specify whether school police officers needed to carry a weapon.”

Student Health & Welfare

The Hechinger Report (2/3, Kaplan) reports on the Readiness Bus program, where a preschool in a “colorful minibus” travels across rural Kentucky. Those behind the program “realized they had to confront not only the logistical challenges of reaching young children living in poverty and isolation, but also families’ suspicion of pre-kindergarten programs in general.” Each bus has two adults onboard: “an early childhood specialist who works with the children on fundamental academic and social skills, and a “family navigator,” who works with their caregivers.” Overseen by Berea College, buses in the past two years “have served nearly 100 preschoolers, ages 3 and 4, and their families.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (2/5) reports “hundreds of Wisconsin students can soon be trained to recognize warning signs of suicide in their peers and get help, Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday at Milton High School as he signed a bill providing the funding.” Beginning next school year, “schools can apply for $1,000 grants for peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs, with a total funding pool of $250,000.” Task force chair Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, “said the bill was inspired by stories shared by young people in the Milwaukee PBS and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel documentary, ‘You’re Not Alone,’ who’d helped their peers talk about mental health challenges.”

KDKA-TV Pittsburgh (2/4) reports on how nurses and parents at a Washington, Pennsylvania elementary school use an app to track student illnesses and fevers to see if there are any trends. Parents receive a smart thermometer for free through a grant that anonymously uploads user data to an app. The trial program began with 30 thermometers and expanded to 158.

The San Francisco Chronicle (2/4) reports California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a three-year suspension on the state’s Fitnessgram physical fitness assessment over concerns that it leads “to body-shaming, bullying and discrimination.” Newsom raised “specific concerns about the portion of the test related to body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, that’s different for boys and girls.” The Chronicle quotes California Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer saying, “At issue is whether the test in its current form is discriminatory, principally in terms of non-binary students, as well as students with disabilities. Given the body of research on the impacts of bullying on transgender and special education students, this temporary pause will allow for a look to determine whether the current test can be modified or whether a new assessment should be developed.”


A new analysis conducted by the Independent Budget Office at the request of Chalkbeat (2/4) “uncovered a strong correlation between being born later in the year and being classified as having a learning disability by New York City schools.” The effect was “most pronounced when comparing children born in November and December to those with January and February birthdays.” Education experts say the city’s pre-K Dec. 31 cutoff is “not necessarily a problem,” but as “national standards have re-shaped local curricula over the past several years, many parents and advocates are concerned that the academic demands are too much for children born later in the calendar year.”