A daily round-up of education news and views for the Lone Star State
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Tuesday, 14th September 2021




School districts respond to arrival of Tropical Storm Nicholas

As Tropical Storm Nicholas continues along the Texas coast, area school districts are reacting to the likelihood of heavy rain, flash flooding, isolated tornadoes and gusty winds. The storm was due to make landfall Monday night between Corpus Christi and Galveston. Rain totals were predicted to be between 6 and 12 inches to isolated maximum amounts of up to 20 inches. Schools in Houston will be closed on Tuesday, as they will be in BurkevilleCrosbyGalvestonHuffman, Humble, Jasper, and Kirbyville. Today, Nicholas is forecast to bring heavy rain to eastern Texas and into Louisiana. By Wednesday, some of the heavy rain will begin to reach New Orleans.

ABC 13  Houston Chronicle  KTRE 




White House launches Hispanic education initiative

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday intended to coordinate efforts across the federal government to improve educational and economic outcomes for Hispanics. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will serve as chairman of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; it will focus on policies that address “systemic causes” of challenges faced by students, improve their access to high-quality teachers, and address racial disparities in education funding, among other issues. Twenty-four cabinet departments or other agencies in the federal government will participate in a working group to collaborate through the initiative. “We must enable Hispanic and Latino students to reach their highest potential through our Nation’s schools and institutions of higher education,” the executive order says. “The Federal Government must also collaborate with Hispanic and Latino communities to ensure their long-term success.” Biden signed the executive order on the eve of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.

Education Week 


Majority of U.S. schools yet to meet White House demand for testing and vaccines

For schools to stay open and safe, President Joe Biden said last Thursday, they need to require universal masking, vaccinations for teachers and staff and regular tests for unvaccinated people. So far, the largest U.S. districts are succeeding at masking, but only a minority are implementing the others. Out of 100 large districts, including the biggest urban districts in every state, nine in 10 are requiring students to wear masks, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. A quarter are requiring teachers to be vaccinated, while 15 are regularly testing students. “What seems to be holding back many schools are the political and practical challenges — how do they handle positive cases and false positives, how do they address angry parents who don’t want to see their kids tested, or identified as a positive case, and children who don’t want to be swabbed,” said Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and a Pfizer board member. Complicating readiness on issues like testing was officials’ “intense desire to return to normalcy” heading into this year, when it looked like the pandemic was waning, said Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. As a result, she said, some places were less prepared for another round of intense virus mitigation. “There was in many communities perhaps a false sense of security that masking and quarantining and remote learning wouldn’t be part of this school year. And they’re getting a rude awakening with delta that it is, and it has to be, to protect kids.”

New York Times  Washington Post 




San Angelo ISD installs 'bio-defense system' at middle school

San Angelo ISD has announced its latest measure to slow COVID-19, a "biodefense system" that works like an air purifier. The Integrated Viral Protection Unit is FDA-approved and works to "eliminate the airborne transmission of SARS-coV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19." The system, installed at Glenn Middle School, uses a heated filter and a "metal mesh foam to 'catch and kill' viruses" and pollutants, according to ivpair.com. The company said it kills the virus in the first pass and is 99.99% effective. The device was recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Engineering and awarded the Engineering News Records 2020 Newsmaker of the year.

San Angelo Standard-Times 


Ribbon-cutting ceremony held for new Landrum Middle School

Spring Branch ISD’s Landrum Middle School started the school year with a completely new building, with a three-story building replacing the one-story building built in 1956. The district held an official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 9th. The building will serve 1,100 students from Landrum, and a KIPP Academy school that shares its campus. The new Landrum Middle School was part of the $898.4m Spring Branch bond that passed overwhelmingly in 2017.

Houston Chronicle 


McKinney approves multifamily housing development near middle school

The McKinney City Council unanimously approved zoning for a multi-family development near Cockrill Middle School. The development is expected to have two-story units that will end 300 feet from the single-family property line.

McKinney Courier-Gazette 




U.S. News & World Report releases its 2022 college rankings

U.S. News & World Report has released its 2022 Best Colleges rankings, featuring 1,466 colleges and universities that grant baccalaureate degrees. For the eleventh straight year, Princeton tops the National University list, followed by Columbia, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which all tied for second. Rice University placed 17th, and took 1st place in the state of Texas. UT-Austin came in 38th, while Southern Methodist University and Texas A&M tied for 68th. The Texas schools that ranked on the list of best public schools include the University of Texas at 10th overall, tied with four other schools, and 1st in Texas while Texas A&M ranked 26th overall, second in Texas.

Forbes  Houston Chronicle  US News and World Report 




School officials continue to weigh roles of police on campus

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has contributed to the debate about the presence of police on school campuses, arguing in a new report that despite decades of funding and support for school policing, there is little evidence police cultivated positive relationships in schools or helped prevent school shootings. COPAA and other organizations have suggested instead of police in schools, schools should ensure staff are better trained in addressing challenging student behaviors; use evidence-based reading instruction and supports; use alternatives to suspensions and expulsions; increase the hiring of school counselors and psychologists; and fulfill obligations to provide behavioral supports to students with disabilities. COPAA also said that police presence at schools increases the likelihood law enforcement will be involved in less-serious school-based behavior. “Right now, the police are being relied on to handle all kinds of discipline and minor infractions or codes of conduct — things that do not need police intervention,” said COPAA CEO Denise Marshall.  But a complete dissolution of the school-police relationship is not recommended, Marshall said, because schools need police assistance in extreme emergencies and to help build evidence-based, trusting relationships within communities.

K-12 Dive 




Smartwatches become the new big classroom distraction

Parents opting to send students to school with wearables like Verizon’s GizmoWatch, and Apple Watches, as a less-distracting alternative to cellphones, are instead creating a new, subtler classroom disruption. Jeanne McVerry, a reading specialist and education-technology coach in Teaneck, New Jersey, said her district doesn’t specifically forbid smartwatches in its tech-use policy but she has taken a hard line on them. She asks students to put them in their backpacks during class. She learned students were using them to arrange bathroom meetups with friends to hang out during class time. “Technology changes so rapidly and in ways we can’t anticipate that we don’t know how we’re going to police every new thing,” Ms. McVerry said. While the children’s smartwatch market is still relatively small, making up about 20% of overall smartwatch shipments, it’s a growing segment of personal tech for young people. According to Pew Research, 13% of teens own a smartwatch. Kids’ smartwatch unit sales grew 12% to about 12m in the first half of this year compared with the prior-year period, according to SuJeong Lim, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research. She said she expects the kids’ smartwatch market to grow by double digits annually.

Wall Street Journal 




Spring ISD transportation specialist given statewide award

Spring ISD Transportation Routing Specialist Valerie Blaha has been given the 2021 Operations Specialist of the Year award by the Texas Association of Pupil Transportation, selected among 80 other nominees around the state. Ms. Blaha has been with the district since 2007 when she joined as a bus driver, the release said, looking for a job that would allow her more time with her kids after they got home from school. Since then, she worked her way up to routing specialist, managing routes for the district’s special needs students.

Houston Chronicle 

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