Whiteboard Notes | Lamar Alexander Retiring in 2020; ISTE Advises Districts on the Spending of ESSA Grants

Federal School Safety Commission Releases Final Report: On Tuesday, the Federal School Safety Commission released its final report and recommendations for reducing school shootings. The Commission, which was chaired by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and formed in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shooting in February of this year recommended, among other things, rescinding the 2014 discipline guidance issued by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights during the Obama Administration. The 2014 guidance emphasized alternatives to suspensions and expulsions and highlighted data showing that students of color and those with disabilities were up to three times as likely as white students to face these punishments, often for similar nonviolent offenses. Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), incoming Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, criticized the report, saying it was “not a serious or good-faith effort to make schools safer for students and educators… and Congress will hold the administration accountable for meeting its obligation to fully enforce federal civil rights law.” [U.S. News]
 
Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Retiring in 2020: On Monday, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced that he would not seek reelection in 2020. Alexander has been the leading Republican voice on education for more than a decade and has been a fixture in national politics long before that -- serving as governor of Tennessee, president of the University of Tennessee, and as U.S. Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush. With two years left in office, it remains to be seen if he will make reauthorizing the Higher Education Act a priority. [Politico]
 
Employee Morale Fares Poorly at Department of Education: Last week, a report found that the U.S. Department of Education ranks dead last among 27 mid-size federal agencies when it comes to employee job satisfaction. Overall, job satisfaction at the Department of Education has dropped from an "engagement" score of 59.7 in 2017—the year current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took office—to 47.3 in 2018. The new study was released by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. [Education Week, subscription required]

ISTE Advises Districts on the Spending of ESSA Grants: The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recently issued a report recommending how states and districts can use the funds from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants under ESSA. The report offers guidelines to help schools offer a well-rounded education for all students, ensure safety within schools, and make effective use of technology. Among the recommendations, ISTE suggests professional development  for teachers through certification programs or micro-credentialing. [EdScoop]
 
New Report Offers Ways to Engage Students in Science and Engineering: The National Academy of Sciences released a report, offering advice to middle and high school science teachers on how to create and administer engaging materials and lessons in the field of STEM. Looking back at a previous report, published in 2006, the authors observed a noticeable shift from teacher-led lectures to exploratory and discussion-based methods of teaching, which have been shown to be more engaging. The report recommends that teachers work together to create lessons that engage all children represented in the classroom and that teachers participate in professional development and provide regular feedback to their peers. [T.H.E. Journal]

Few Minority Students Earning Undergraduate Engineering Degrees, More Earning Graduate Engineering Degrees: A recent report from The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) highlighted the lack of African-American and Hispanic college students graduating with engineering degrees. Data from the report shows that of the 19 percent of Hispanic undergraduates, only 11 percent earn engineering degrees. However, the researchers found an overall uptick in minority students receiving engineering degrees at the graduate level, with 6.3 percent of students earning a master’s degree, and 4.9 percent earning a doctorate degree. Data for this study was sourced from all U.S. colleges with engineering degrees during the 2010-11 and 2015-16 academic years. [Diverse: Issues in Higher Education]
 
Increase in College Completion Rates: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently published national college completion rates, which have increased for the third consecutive year. According to the new report, the six year completion rate has reached 58.3 percent, a 1.5 percent increase from 2011-12. The completion rate for students transferring from two to four-year institutions also increased to 15.8 percent, a 1.1 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. [Inside Higher Ed]  

LinkedIn Releases U.S. Emerging Jobs Report for 2018: LinkedIn recently published its U.S. Emerging Jobs Report for 2018, listing the top emerging jobs and skills. Key takeaways include the persistence of artificial intelligence (AI) related roles and skills, the proven need for the human touch in basic operational roles like administrative assistant, and the remaining soft skills gap. [Fortune]
 
House Presents Act for Federally Funded Lifelong Learning: The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act was introduced in the House this week, encouraging lifelong learning through an employee-owned savings plan. According to HR Dive, low-to-moderate income workers would be eligible for a dollar-to-dollar federal match, applicable toward any training leading to a post-secondary credential. [HR Dive]
 
Most Workers View Digital Skills Development is an Opportunity According to New Study: While digitization is constantly viewed as a threat to the future of work, 74% of participants in the global study view the development of digital skills as an opportunity. 68% believe that schools, colleges, and universities are properly developing skills necessary for the future. [Randstad]