Whiteboard Notes | Federal K-12 Budget;  NAEP Scores Released; ASU-GSV

NAEP Scores Hold Steady, Show Growing Achievement Gap: Results from the National Assessment for Education Progress show there is a widening gap between high and low achieving students in terms of math and science scores. The exam, which has been given to fourth and eighth grade students since the 1990s, showed that U.S. students have made little to no gains in math and reading since 2015. The growing achievement gap is particularly stark when comparing scores from Black and Hispanic students to their White counterparts. 

DeVos Considering Changes to School Discipline Guidance: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is considering making changes to Obama-era school discipline policies that were outlined in a‘Dear Colleague’ letter from 2014. The letter prohibits school districts from implementing discipline policies on the basis of race, color, and other factors. In a blog post, DeVos writes that these discipline guidelines actually made schools more unsafe, citing that schools could not properly discipline disruptive students and that in some instances the rules were circumvented by sending suspended students home informally in lieu of suspension. The Department has not yet announced its next steps regarding whether it will change or repeal the guidance.

Seventeen Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Act on ESSA Plan Approvals: In a letter to the House and Senate Education Committees, multiple civil rights groups have called on legislative leaders to urge U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to stop approving ESSA plants that do not comply with provisions of the law’s requirements. The groups claim that some approved plans will leave vulnerable and low performing students, such as those who are English-language learners and historically disadvantaged, unaccounted for. DeVos asserts that she has only been approving law-compliant ESSA plans, and that the civil rights organizations have not provided her with specifics on how these approved plans do not meet necessary provisions.

Senate Democrats Ask IRS for Heightened Scrutiny of For-Profit College Conversions: In a letter to the IRS, Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Warren (D - MA), have called on the Internal Revenue Service to inquire into applications coming in from for-profit colleges that wish to become non-profit entities. In the Obama-era, there had been a crackdown on these for-profit transitions, as the U.S. Department of Education believed that the schools were simply trying to evade complying with federal regulations. The letter comes at a time when there has been an increase of applications from for-profit colleges to transition, as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has taken a friendlier stance on these educational institutions. 

 

Arizona Enacts Data Breach Requirements: Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed new student data privacy protections into law on Wednesday. The bill, HB 2154 establishes breach notification requirements for entities that control personal information and data, including student personally identifiable information.

Connecticut Legislators Propose Hope Scholarship: A bill that would cover higher education costs for Connecticut students continues to move through the state legislature. SB 353 would create the Connecticut Hope Scholarship to pay tuition and fees at public institutions of higher education in the state for residents who graduate high school with a GPA of at least 3.5. The bill is currently pending on the Senate calendar.

Hawaii Considers Computer Science Legislation: Hawaii legislators are considering bills that would require the development of a comprehensive statewide computer science program. HB 2607 and companion bill SB 2507 would require the state to develop and implement a statewide computer science K-12 curricula plan, and ensure that all public high schools in the state offer at least one computer science course by the 2021-2022 school year. An unspecified amount would be appropriated to implement the legislation and provide computer science professional development for teachers.

Virginia Requires OER Guidelines at Institutions of Higher Ed: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed into law a bill designed to minimize the cost of textbooks for postsecondary students. The legislation, HB 454, requires public institutions of higher education in the state to establish guidelines around adoption of low-cost or no-cost open educational resources (OER).
 

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Illinois Passes Law to Address Teacher Shortage: In an effort to combat the statewide teacher shortage.Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill (SB 863) into law that would enable out-of-state teachers to teach in Illinois if they hold a comparable, state-approved teaching certificate. Expanding the pool of candidates will also increase the chances of finding qualified candidates to fill the necessary positions, including special education teachers, foreign language teachers, as well as school psychologists.

Tennessee Works to Reduce Testing Burden: Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, high school students in Tennessee will no longer be required to take state assessments in chemistry and English III. The decision was made by a 30-member assessment task force convened by the state’s Commissioner of Education, Candice McQueen, and reflects growing concern about testing burden on students and teachers, as well as frustration with the state’s TNReady assessments overall. While the English III test will be eliminated entirely, districts will be able to use the TNReady chemistry assessment as an optional supplementary test.

Universal Preschool More Effective Than Targeted Programs at Boosting Reading Scores: Elizabeth Cascio, an economist at Dartmouth College, found that preschoolers from low-income backgrounds perform better when learning amongst children from a range of family incomes, rather than in programs exclusively offered to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. These results challenge the popular belief that preschool programs open to only children from low-income families would help these children start kindergarten on an equal or stronger footing than their peers in higher income families. Cascio’s research argues for universal preschool, an approach that would be more expensive, yet prove to be more cost effective. 

 

Justice Department Investigating Early-Decision Admissions Programs: The U.S. Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the admissions processes of the nation’s top schools, and whether these institutions are violating antitrust laws. In a letter to schools, the Department is asking them to preserve emails that pertain to student information and agreements with other schools. This inquiry suggests that the communications between universities may be affecting admission opportunities for students, and that the practice has legal implications when schools reveal student identities and make admissions decisions based on their communications with each other.

College Presidents Concerned About Free Speech and Violence:  A recent survey by the American Council on Education has found that seventy percent of the 471 college presidents interviewed are concerned about violence on campus in relation to issues of free speech and inclusion. Despite this, the survey also finds that they believe that the promotion of free speech is important, that they would prefer exposing their students to different ideas as opposed to censoring unpopular opinion.