A daily round-up of education news and views for the Golden State.
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Thursday, 14th October 2021




Funds for California's high-needs students fail to reach schools

Diverting funds intended for California’s high-needs students for other spending “dampens” the potential to significantly close the achievement gap between high-poverty and low-poverty students, new research from the Public Policy Institute of California has found. School districts on average are directing only 55 cents of every dollar of extra funding from the Local Control Funding Formula to the schools that high-needs students who generate the money attend, according to the report, which examined school-level financial data reported to the state for all districts with more than 250 students and with more than 10 schools. The “imperfect targeting of resources to high-need students within districts remains a concern,” research fellow Julien Lafortune wrote, adding that there are big differences among districts in the extent to which they target the additional resources. The money that didn’t reach the high-needs students wasn’t necessarily “wasted,” he said; instead of being targeted, it was spread evenly among all students across a district. 





Nation's Report Card reveals dramatic declines

Math and reading scores for 13-year-olds have declined dramatically since 2012, the first major drops in the subjects since the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) began tracking long-term academic achievement trends in the 1970s. While average scores have improved significantly in reading and math for both age groups since the tests were first administered, with the greatest gains experienced by Black and Hispanic students, scores for 13-year-old students have declined in reading by 3 points and in math by 5 points since 2012. Scores for 9-year-olds remained unchanged. The latest NAEP tests, also known as the Nation's Report Card, were administered in the 2019-20 school year before the pandemic closed schools, so many experts expect further declines stemming from the pivot to online education that followed. "None of these results are impressive," laments Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner in the assessment division of the National Center for Education Statistics, which oversees the administration of the testing and the analysis of results.

US News and World Report  Washington Post 


Latest elementary and middle schools rankings published

U.S. News & World Report has published its latest Best K-8 Schools rankings. For 2022, schools have been ranked at the state and district level, with Best Charter Schools and Best Magnet Schools ranked as stand-alone categories. California has 5,534 ranked elementary schools – the most of any state – followed by Texas (4,446), New York (2,211), Florida (2,128) and Illinois (2,038). California also has the most ranked middle schools with 2,319, followed by Texas (1,942), Illinois (1,243), New York (1,219) and Florida (997). The methodology for the brand-new rankings focuses on two areas: math and reading proficiency, or how well students perform on state assessments, and math and reading performance, or how well they perform compared to expectations. Notably, the state assessment data used in the rankings is from the 2018-2019 school year, so pre-dates the impact of the pandemic.

US News and World Report 




Sacramento school district votes to mandate COVID vaccines

The Sacramento City USD board has voted to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all eligible students and staff. The mandate, which requires full vaccination, will go to into effect on November 30th and also includes all dependent charter schools and adult education centers. Board members discussed concerns over parents pulling their children out of the already financially struggling school district in protest to the vaccine. Board members Leticia Garcia and Lavinia Grace Phillips said that while the mandate must be inclusive, safety must be prioritized. During public comment, several parents asked for the district to not allow religious exemptions, expressing concern that too many families would find loopholes to avoid the mandate. "For so many of our students, schools are their safe haven and I thank the Board for their approval of this resolution based on our commitment to meeting those student needs", said Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar. "We are taking a bold stand to protect public health.”

Sacramento Bee 


Sonoma County schools superintendent to retire next year

Steve Herrington, Sonoma County’s superintendent of schools since 2011, will retire in 2022 after his term expires, capping a 51-year career in public education. His departure comes after several consecutive years of crises that have rocked Sonoma County schools, including wildfires, flooding in the west county and power shut-offs, both preceding and intersecting with the COVID-19 pandemic. But Herrington, 73, said none of those challenges pushed him toward retirement earlier than he would have gone otherwise. “I can deal with disasters over the years and this one didn’t deter me any more than the last one,” he said. “It was time to spend time with family.”

The Press Democrat 


Paso Robles teachers call for pay raise after years of stagnant wages

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members lined the sidewalk outside the Paso Robles Joint USD administration buildings on Tuesday evening to rally for better pay. Teachers in the North County district say they have not received a salary increase in three years, during which the general cost of living and their healthcare costs have risen. 

The Tribune 




Districts face lawsuits over mask mandates

California's two largest school districts - Los Angeles and San Diego - are targeted in lawsuits challenging their student COVID-19 vaccination mandates, alleging the vaccines are too new and that unvaccinated children face discrimination and the denial of their equal right to a public education. Both school systems were ahead of the state in requiring student vaccines as a measure to make campuses safer and to limit spread of the coronavirus in the community — and their mandates are more comprehensive than the state requirement, which has yet to be codified into law. In Los Angeles, an individual parent who is not named filed suit Friday. In San Diego, the parent group Let Them Breathe filed suit Monday. That group had previously filed pending litigation against the state's student mask mandate. The litigation against each district was prepared by Aanestad, Andelin & Corn, a law firm based in San Diego County. “Many parents want to see long-term studies of this new vaccine before they would consider getting their child vaccinated. Every student has a right to an in-person education under California law,” said Sharon McKeeman, the founder of Let Them Breathe, which has organized against student vaccine mandates under the name Let Them Choose. She called the mandates “unscientific and unlawful.”

Los Angeles Times 




How school administrators are addressing staff shortages

More than three-quarters of district leaders and principals say they’re experiencing at least moderate staffing shortages in their school buildings this year, according to the newly published results of a nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey. Fifteen percent said shortages are “very severe,” 25% said they’re “severe,” and another 37% classified staffing challenges as “moderate.” Just 5% of administrators said they aren’t experiencing any staffing shortages in their schools or districts this year. Another 18% said the shortages are “mild” or “very mild.” The shortages are most acute, according to the survey results, among substitute teachers, bus drivers, and instructional aides. Districts plagued by staffing shortages are taking a wide variety of approaches to addressing the issues; for example, 15% are offering recruitment bonuses. The most common tactic districts are employing is asking current employees to take on additional responsibilities. Roughly two-thirds of principals and district leaders say they’re taking that route.

Education Week 




School leaders urged to consider unique needs when choosing SEL programming

Selecting the right social-emotional learning curriculum takes time and research, and with dozens of options, school leaders should carefully consider which evidence-based models best fit their unique needs, Heather Schwartz, a practice specialist at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, and Alexandra Skoog-Hoffman, director of Research-Practice Partnerships at CASEL, write for Edutopia. Resources like CASEL, RAND Corp. research and the What Works Clearinghouse can help district leaders sort through which approaches may work best for them. School leaders should also keep in mind it may take more than one program to achieve all of those priorities, so it's key to maintain a growth mindset with understanding that changes, additions and tweaks will be needed to better suit any new concerns or needs that arise.

K-12 Dive 




Cybersecurity practices to keep school networks safe from attack

Earlier this year, a report from the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center identified 2020 as a "record-breaking" year for cyber attacks against U.S. schools. In all, 408 publicized incidents marked an 18% increase over 2019. Since, 2016, there have been an estimated 1,180 cyber-related incidents in public schools. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools and forced a transition to virtual learning, many districts nationwide that hadn't yet gone 1:1 with classroom devices found themselves fast-tracking multi-year plans to do so and exploring digital learning options for the first time. Actions taken by districts to strengthen security include keeping security patches and antivirus software up to date, maintaining full offline backups for school networks, and avoiding software that is "end-of-life" or no longer supported with security updates.

K-12 Dive 




College Board president discusses online exam deployment

In a piece for K-12 Dive, College Board president Jeremy Singer looks at how teachers worked to ensure the delivery of AP exams in a year when millions of students were cut off from their normal routines, and out of school buildings for weeks or months at a time. More than 2.5m students completed at least one exam this year (counting both digital and traditional formats), which is on par with a typical academic year. To help prepare for this year’s AP exams, the College Board bought and prepared more than 25,000 laptops to send to any student who needed one, ensuring device access was no barrier. "It would have been easy to simply cancel exams and wait for a return to normal, and there were some thoughtful voices in favor of scrapping AP exams this year," Mr. Singer said. "But it was students and teachers who overwhelmingly wanted to preserve the opportunity to test. More than 90% of students told us they wanted the chance to complete an exam, and I’m glad we listened to them."

K-12 Dive 




U.S. economists win Nobel for contributions to labor economics

The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to David Card, Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens for their work on natural experiments, in particular their contributions to better understanding how the job market works. The three economists each addressed a vexing challenge in social science: how to pin down cause and effect in a complex world. Ideally, researchers create randomized experiments. But that often isn’t possible to do. How do we know, for instance, if the Common Core standards helped student achievement or if masking students slows the spread of COVID-19 without being able to randomly assign students to each group? Mr. Card’s answer was to approximate an experiment using seemingly random quirks in the real world. In a 2010 study, he found that public schools in Canada performed better when facing more competition from nearby religious schools. In two studies published in 1992, Card found that American students who attended schools with smaller class sizes and higher teacher salaries wound up with better paying jobs as adults. The findings “surprised the research community,” the Nobel Prize committee wrote. “The results led to a discussion on whether school quality and school resources mattered for school and labor market outcomes.”

Chalkbeat  New York Times 

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