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




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 




U.S. Secretary of Education: Abbott wrong to ban COVID vaccine mandates

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that he disagrees with Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to ban nearly any coronavirus vaccine mandates in the state. “Yes, I think the Governor is off,” Cardona told CNBC’s Sharon Epperson in a Tuesday interview. “That’s why our Office for Civil Rights is investigating how those actions could be potentially discriminating against students’ rights to public education.” Mr. Cardona noted that hospitalizations of children due to Covid-19 have been higher in places that have barred mandates for wearing masks and being vaccinated. It also puts teachers and their families at risk unnecessarily, he said. “Protecting our educators and honoring them by saying we are going to protect your workspace by requiring what we know works,” he said. “That’s so basic.”





Alice ISD starts new afterschool program with grant funds

Alice ISD has received its first allocated grant funds for $1.6m for the Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) program, allowing it to provide three additional hours of tutoring and after school programs at all district campuses. Texas ACE provides no-cost activities before and after school and during summer for K–12 students in Title I schools. The program is federally funded through 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) and administered on the state level by the Texas Education Agency. This grant is intended to assist in after school instruction to bridge the gap caused by the pandemic. 

Alice Echo-News Journal 


Paradise ISD hires architect to address potential facility improvements

Paradise ISD will look to address its aging buildings and continued growth with facility upgrades that could come before voters next year, and has approved a contract with Dallas-based architecture firm LPA to establish priorities for the district’s facilities for the next 20 years. “We’ve known we had facility needs due to the age of our buildings and facility needs due to our growth. It’s something we’ve been concentrating on since 2018,” Paradise Superintendent Paul Uttley said. “For years, we’ve been trying to get to a point to be able to get to where we were last night.” Mr. Uttley said the board is looking at potentially calling for a bond for November 2022. The deadline to put a bond issue on the November ballot is August.

Wise County Messenger 




Judge to issue Grapevine-Colleyville ruling by end of month

A federal judge is expected to issue a ruling in a free speech lawsuit before the next Grapevine-Colleyville ISD school board meeting. Tony McDonald, an attorney representing a resident who sued the school district and board president, said that during a court hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman said he plans to issue a ruling before the October 25th school board meeting. Last month, Mitchell Ryan sued the school district and board president Jorge Rodriguez alleging that his constitutional right to free speech was violated when he was repeatedly interrupted when he said the name of Colleyville Heritage Principal James Whitfield during a public comment period at the August 23rd board meeting. The suit alleges that Mr. Rodriguez did not apply the district’s policy of not naming employees during public comment portions of board meetings when people spoke in support of Mr. Whitfield. He is currently on paid administrative leave and is awaiting a decision on whether his contract will be renewed.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram 




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 




Rocketship Public Schools to open Fort Worth charter elementary

Community leaders, administrators and advocates gathered at the future site of a yet-to-be-named charter elementary school in the Stop Six neighborhood Wednesday. SaJade Miller, a former Fort Worth ISD administrator and principal who is serving as the superintendent for Rocketship Public Schools Texas, spoke about his vision for providing a top-class education to benefit the community and school district as students move on into middle and high school in the district. “There is a unique character and spirit in this community, and I am thrilled to be a part of it once again, but on behalf of... Rocketship, Texas,” he said. “We are building a true community school, by parents, for parents that will holistically meet the needs of our students.” The school, which is being constructed at 3520 E. Berry St., will be a two-story elementary school with 22 classrooms, two learning labs and a gymnasium.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram 




Education, Justice Depts. issue guidance on supporting students at risk of self-hate

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the U.S. Department of Justice have jointly issued a fact sheet to support students with mental health disabilities, their families, and their schools in the era of COVID-19. Along with the fact sheet, OCR released a letter to educators highlighting the civil rights obligations of schools and postsecondary institutions to students with mental health disabilities. The fact sheet entitled Supporting and Protecting the Rights of Students at Risk of Self-Harm in the Era of COVID-19, provides information about federal civil rights laws that protect students with mental health disabilities. It includes scenarios that illustrate when the Department might investigate a potential violation; gives schools and postsecondary institutions a list of action steps to create an environment that is responsive to students with mental health disabilities; and provides educational and crisis resources for students, families, and educators.

Department of Education 




Best-practice approaches for assessing students with disabilities

Limited time or resources shouldn’t prevent schools from conducting informal and formal assessments of students with disabilities, including those with significant cognitive disabilities, the National Center on Education Outcomes (NCEO) said in a recent paper. Not only can testing provide critical information on how to design instruction to combat pandemic-related learning loss, formally assessing students with disabilities is also a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, said NCEO director and report co-author Sheryl Lazarus. The NCEO has set out three approaches to measuring student performance during the pandemic and recovery, including: reviews of all students' individual education plans, to ensure they accurately reflect a student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance; using formative assessments through the year to guide effective day-to-day instruction and learning; and to be more transparent in planning for testing, and the subsequent reporting of results. 

K-12 Dive 




Lt. Gov. wants higher ed construction projects added to third special session

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday to add funding for public university construction projects through tuition revenue bonds to the Legislature’s special session call as soon as Wednesday, less than a week before the end of the this year’s third special session. The Legislature failed to pass a similar bill during this year’s regular session that would have provided $4.3 billion in bonds to fund these projects. “There have been requests and demands from schools across the state,” Patrick said in the letter to Abbott. “Both chambers stand willing to address the issue and provide the funds for tuition revenue bonds to our higher education institutions.” The last time the Legislature passed a bill funding higher education capital construction projects was in 2015.

The Texas Tribune 




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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