Whiteboard Notes | Trump Calls for School Choice in SOTU; FL Gov. Pushes to Eliminate Common Core Standards; MA Program to Support Homeless Students

Trump Calls for School Choice in State of the Union: On Tuesday, President Donald Trump made a renewed call for school choice in his State of the Union address. During the speech, President Trump advocated for legislation to support school choice – echoing his calls for a $20 billion school choice program when he took office. [EdSource]
 
Chairman Alexander Unveils Priorities for HEA Overhaul: On Monday, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, laid out his priorities for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). Alexander said his top priorities for updates to the federal higher education law are streamlining the application for federal student aid, simplifying student loan repayment and holding colleges accountable for student loan repayment rates. Alexander has already met with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Committee and with nine other Committee members, to talk about compiling nearly a dozen bipartisan proposals into a single piece of legislation. [U.S. News and World Report]
 
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Calls Out State Chiefs: On Monday, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, comprised of over 200 advocacy organizations, senta letter to State Chiefs of Education urging them to closely review their states’ plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Leadership Conference is also calling on states to involve parents, communities, and stakeholders in the implementation of ESSA to ensure schools get the support they need to serve historically overlooked groups of children, including English learners, students in special education and students of color. [Education Week, Subscription Required]
Florida Governor Pushes to Eliminate Common Core Standards: Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has issued an executive order directing the Florida Department of Education to eliminate the Common Core standards and conduct a comprehensive review of K-12 academic standards. Florida adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. As part of the review process, the Department of Education must suggest ways to streamline testing, improve the quality of instructional curriculum, as well as identify opportunities to support robust high school civics education, among other actions. The executive order gives the Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, until January 1, 2020 to complete the review and provide recommended revisions to the Governor.
 
Massachusetts Launches Pilot Program to Support Homeless Students: Governor Charlie Baker (R) has announced a new pilot program to support homeless students in the state who are attending community college. Through the initiative, called the Massachusetts Student Housing Security Pilot, four residential campuses – Bridgewater State University, Framingham State University, Worcester State University and UMass Lowell – are partnering with local community colleges to provide residence hall accommodations and meals to students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. The pilot is part of the Baker Administration’s broader efforts to address and end youth homelessness. Under the pilot program, the state will reimburse the campuses for the associated costs for the remainder of fiscal year 2019 and through fiscal year 2020. [SouthCoast Today]
 
New Mexico Considers Eliminating PARCC: Legislation that would do away with the state’s use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized exams for public school students is moving through the New Mexico legislature. If enacted, the bill would require schools to use a new exam designed by the New Mexico Education Department by the 2019-2020 school year.
Teachers Speak Out Against Obscene Book Legislation: Librarians, teachers and free speech advocates are speaking out against a Maine legislative proposal that would restrict access to certain kinds of books in public schools. Under the legislation, student access to books determined to be "obscene" would be limited – a definition that school librarians worry could be applied to some classic works, including those by Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood. [Maine Public Radio]
 
New Orleans Schools Address Absenteeism: New Orleans' public schools are trying to reduce student absences by partnering with community leaders through the "Keeping Kids in School" initiative. The community leaders signed letters of commitment agreeing to help do their part to curb absenteeism in their community. Among other ideas, the school district is encouraging community members to mentor chronically absent students. [NOLA.com]
International Student Enrollment in U.S. Graduate Schools Decreases: A new survey from the Council of Graduate Schools found that new international student enrollments at U.S. graduate schools declined for a second straight year, with a one percent decrease from fall 2017 to fall 2018. This overall decline was caused by a two percent drop in new international student enrollment in master’s programs. Less research-intensive universities saw a more significant decrease, experiencing a 15 percent decrease in first-time international enrollment in master's programs, and an eight percent decrease at doctoral-granting institutions not classified as “most research intensive.” [Inside Higher Ed]
 
MIT President Criticizes Saudi “Behavior”, Does Not End Partnerships: After a month-long review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s partnerships with the government of Saudi Arabia and its affiliates, President L. Rafael Reif wrote a letter strongly condemning recent actions of the Saudi government, but declined to end institutional partnerships. Following the recommendation of a report by Associate Provost for International Partnerships, Richard K. Lester, Reif will allow faculty with Saudi partnerships to decide whether they would like to continue or conclude their engagements. An ad hoc committee comprised of students, faculty, and other staff will be formed to further examine the future of Saudi partnerships. [Chronicle of Higher Education; Subscription Required]
 
University of Michigan Sets Fundraising Record: This week, the University of Michigan announcedthat its near eight year-long fundraising campaign has raised $5.28 billion. According to the university, it is the first fundraising campaign by a public university to exceed $5 billion. However, the University of Michigan may soon have company with the University of Washington and the University of California, San Francisco which are both currently in the midst of their own $5 billion fundraising campaigns. [Inside Higher Ed]
Reverse Mentoring Supports Upskilling: The Center for Creative Leadership has profiled how reverse mentoring can support upskilling, particularly for employees in industries that employ fast-changing technologies. The Center found that partnering experienced team members with digital-savvy junior employees provides opportunities for both levels of colleagues to learn from each other. [Center for Creative Leadership]
 
Hybrid Skills Needed as Jobs Become More Complex: According to new research by Burning Glass Technologies, hybrid skills – the incorporation of both hard and soft job skills – are needed more than ever as the rise of automation, artificial intelligence and digital technologies are making jobs more complex. The analysis found that jobs requiring hybrid skills are growing twice as fast as jobs in general and are 20 to 40 percent higher-paying than their more traditional competitors. [ATD]
Researchers Consider Effects of School Start Time on Grades: Researchers at the University of Washington researched the effects of later school start times on students’ academic performance. After researchers had students wear activity trackers during the week, they found teenagers were getting more sleep closer to their natural sleep pattern on weekends. As a result, the study found when high schools pushed back their start times by an hour, and got more sleep, sophomores started earning better grades. [Science News for Students]
$2 Million in Seed Funding for ClassTag: ClassTag has raised $2 million in a seed round led by Founder Collective, Newark Venture Partners, One Way Ventures, Silicon Badia and Smart Hub. The app allows parents to purchase classroom supplies for their own use from teacher-curated lists. [EdSurge]
 
Penn Foster Acquires Ashworth College: Talent development platform Penn Foster announced its acquisition of Ashworth College, an online institution offering degree and certificate programs in fields such as nursing, community health, graphic design and business. The move is part of Penn Foster’s broader effort to expand training opportunities for workers in middle-skill occupations -- those that require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree. [HR Dive]